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Category Archives: Bicycle Lighting

Reviews of bicycle lights, taillights, flashers and reflectors

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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Topeak AlienLux Tail Light (One Cool Light)

When I ride on busy roads at night I always attach two of the brightest tail lights I own to the back of my bike. However, bright tail lights are not necessarily needed on off-road trails—you just need a tail light bright enough to keep other cyclists from running into you. If you are looking for a good tail light with a unique design then you need to get a Topeak AlienLux Tail Light.

Topeak AlienLux Bicycle Tail Light

Topeak AlienLux Tail Light

The Topeak AlienLux Tail Light is not the brightest light on the market, but what it lacks in lumens in makes up for in coolness. This alien shaped light has two red LED’s and is powered by a pair of CR2032 batteries (included with purchase). The lamp housing is made of engineering grade plastic and is water-resistant. There are only two functional modes on this light: Constant or Blinking. Topeak claims that in the blinking mode the batteries will last for 100 hours, or for 60 hours when the light is constantly on.

This light comes with a small Velcro strap so you can attach it to a seatpost or you can easily slip it onto most seat bags. The AlienLux is only two inches tall and weighs less than an ounce. If you look at the photo above you will see that the light comes through the entire body of the AlienLux, not just through the eyes. To turn the light off or on you just press on the alien’s forehead. Did I mention how cool this light is?

The Topeak AlienLux Tail Light comes in six different colors (Red, Green, Black, Pink, White, and Yellow). The AlienLux retails for $14 and even if you never use it at night it will add a bit of class to any bike (unless you are one of those cyclists who take themselves way too seriously).

 

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The Eye Beam Front Lighting System

In my final post for 2011 I listed the Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light from Illuminated Cycling as one of the five best cycling products for 2011. The folks at Illuminated Cycling have recently enhanced their product line with the addition of the Eye Beam front light system. While there is no shortage of good headlights for cyclists already on the market, the Eye Beam has several nice features that make it worth considering. Erik Shaffer, president of Illuminated Cycling, was kind enough to loan me an Eye Beam headlight for a few weeks so I could review it and I really don’t want to send it back!

Illuminated Cycling's Eye Beam Front Lighting System

Eye Beam Front Lighting System from Illuminated Cycling

The Eye Beam is a lightweight 400 lumen headlight that offers a five-hour battery life while on high beam. Thanks to the carbon fiber and aluminum construction this unit only weighs 4.1 ounces and there is no external battery pack so you don’t have to route cables or have a battery pack hanging on your bike frame. This unit uses an LED that provides a 6500K light (a pure, white light). The housing on the Eye Beam is sealed so it is completely waterproof. With just one push-button switch on the back of the housing this light is extremely easy to use. The body of this headlight is six inches long and just one inch in diameter.

The Eye Beam has five operating modes (High, Medium, Low, Strobe and Slow Flash) and it always remembers the last mode you used. With a five-hour battery life I imagine most people will use this light in the high beam setting. However, most of the time when I used it I had it in the strobe mode since most of my “daylight” rides were on days with either heavy cloud cover or fog. The strobe mode is awesome and on days with low visibility it could easily save your life (it really helps keep cars from pulling out in front of you).

Illuminated Cycling Eye Beam on a bike handlebar

The Eye Beam mounted on the handlebars of a mountain bike

On the side of the Eye Beam you will find a Mini-USB port so you can charge the battery by connecting the light to a computer USB port or plug it into the wall with the included adapter.

While every other headlight I own is designed to sit on top of your handlebars, the Eye Beam is intended to mount under the handlebar. I don’t know why someone hasn’t thought of this before! When a headlight is mounted on top of the handlebar it is prone to tilt, but since the weight of the Eye Beam is hanging below the handlebar I found it to be very stable.

At the time of purchase Illuminated Cycling offers you the choice of four different lenses (Narrow, Medium, Wide, or Elliptical) for the headlight. You can see their Website for the way different lenses impact the light pattern. This choice of a lens is especially important if you are going to be wearing a helmet mounted light as well. While riding at night I prefer to have a wide light pattern on my handlebar light and a narrow light (spot light) on my helmet. Unlike many other lighting systems, the Eye Beam uses lenses, not reflectors, to shape the light beam and this provides a very pure light that is free of optical impurities.

The Eye Beam front lighting system is hand-built in the USA and is available from the Illuminated Cycling Website for $135. Illuminated Cycling is an American company and their lights are designed and manufactured in the United States.

 

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ADVmonster Waterproof Bicycle Headlight

If you ride your bike at night you probably already have a decent headlight or two. However, if your lights are more than a few years old you might be pleasantly surprised by how headlight technology has improved over the past few years. Eighteen months ago I replaced my old headlights with new ones that  were eight times brighter, half the cost and offered a longer battery life than my old lights. Two months ago I bought a new ADVmonster Waterproof Bicycle Headlight and in my opinion it is the best value in a cycling light you are going to find this year.

ADVmonster 1,000 Lumen Waterproof Bicycle Headlight

ADVmonster 1,000 Lumen Waterproof Bicycle Headlight

The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight provides a blinding 1,000 lumens of light. This light works in four modes: High, Medium, Low and Flashing. While I do not have the equipment necessary to do an official test, I can tell you that the medium beam on the ADVmonster light appears equal to that of the high beam of the JetLites A-51 720 lumen headlight in both brightness and light pattern. I was able to get a full three hours of light (High Beam) out of this unit with the included 8.4v battery pack. The manufacturer claims your should be able to get 50,000 hours of use from the LED light, and that the battery can be recharged between 500 and 800 times.

Rear View Of The ADVmonster Cycling Light

Rear View Of The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight

This light can be mounted on either your handlebars or helmet with the included mounting hardware. The handlebar mount is basically an oversized O-ring, but it functions quite well and I’ve not had any trouble with it. The helmet mounting strap works, but it is not as well-designed as some of the other light mounts I own.

The ADVmonster light is not very heavy, especially considering how powerful it is. The headlight itself is under five ounces and the battery (with mounting bag) weighs nine ounces. The unit has a durable black anodized finish and is 100% waterproof (not just water-resistant).

Battery Pack For The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight

Battery Pack For The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight

On the back of the light is a sealed illuminated rocker switch. Once you plug the light into the battery the switch turns green to let you know it is getting power—it is very easy to see this switch in the dark! The cord between the light and the battery is 50 inches long, so if you want to mount the light on your helmet and put the battery in your jersey pocket you will have plenty of cord. I mounted my light to the top tube of my bike by using the included battery pouch (it attaches with two Velcro straps).

During the past two months I’ve used this light mainly for daylight rides with the light in flashing mode. We seldom have nice bright sunny days during winter in the Upper Midwest, so most cyclists just kind of blend into the background as they ride down the road. The flashing mode on the light is so incredibly bright that oncoming vehicles have no trouble seeing me from over a mile away! Even if you never ride your bike at night you will still find a lot of use for this light if you ride on cloudy or overcast days.

The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight retails for $120 and is available from the company Website. The kit includes the 1,000 lumen LED light, battery, charger, handlebar mount, helmet mount and storage box. This product comes with a one-year warranty.

 

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Lightweights Hi-Visibility Scotchlite Reflectors For Bicycle Wheels

I have a horrible confession to make: Every time I buy a new bike the first thing I do when I get home is remove the wheel reflectors (and in the process probably violate numerous State, Federal and Intergalactic laws). I have a few bikes that are never used on the roads and my Trek Madone is not allowed outside after dusk. However, on my bikes that I do ride at night I have installed something far better than standard wheel reflectors—Lightweights For Wheels.

Lightweights Hi-Visibility Scotchlite Reflectors For Cyclists

Lightweights Are Barely Visible In Daylight

Lightweights For Wheels are small reflective strips that are applied to your spokes one at a time and the installation process takes about 15 minutes per wheel. The self-adhesive strips will go on much easier in warm weather and make sure you clean the spokes with alcohol before attempting to apply them to remove any road grime. These strips are made of 3M Scotchlite™ and in my experience 3M makes that best reflective material you can buy.

Once Lightweights For Wheels are installed on your spokes you probably won’t even notice them in the daylight—the reflective material matches most silver spokes perfectly. However, once the sun goes down your wheels will be visible from all directions, and when the bike is moving these tiny reflectors really stand out! I need to point out that light needs to be directly aimed at these reflectors for greatest benefit (like the headlights from a car). If you want to test these strips out just take your bike into a dark garage and hold a flashlight at eye level and aim it at your bike (get ready to be impressed).

Lightweights reflective tape for bicycles and cyclists

Lightweights Really Pop When Light Shines On Them

One of the great things about Lightweights For Wheels is that they only add 2 grams of weight per tire, as opposed to the 16 to 32 grams that you would have with standard bike reflectors. In addition, these reflectors will never fall off and they are brighter than the reflectors that come with most bikes. You will also appreciate the fact that these reflectors are perfectly balanced (unlike the lopsided weight from a standard wheel reflector).

A package of Lightweights For Wheels retails for $15 and should be available at your local bike shop. Each package has 75 reflective rectangles for spokes, along with nine circles and two ovals that you can use on other places on your bike, helmet or seat bag.

Note: The white ring on the tire in the photo above is from the reflective strip that is built into my Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire.

 

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Pin Ups: Reflective Velo Pins from CycleAware

Pin Ups Reflective Velo Pins from CycleAware

Reflective Velo Pins

You’ve probably heard someone say, “There’s no such thing as being too good-looking or too rich.” We need to add one more thing: for a cyclist, there is no such thing as being too visible. I ride a lot at night and in low-light situations—this means I also own several headlights and taillights for my bikes. Unfortunately, batteries run out of juice, light bulbs die and mounting brackets break. Therefore, I also own a lot of reflective gear so motorists can see me even if my lights kick the bucket.

The good folks at CycleAware recently sent me a package of Pin Ups: Reflective Velo Pins for review purposes. This is a package of 1″ diameter pins with a highly reflective surface. You can attach these pins to your jersey (they’re great for the back pockets), jacket, socks, gloves, backpack, or messenger bag.

A really good place for these pins is on the back of your gloves! I wish every pair of cycling gloves had reflective piping, but most do not. However, you can easily fasten one of these pins to the back of your gloves so motorists can see you hands when you signal a turn. Another useful place for these pins is on the back of your cycling tights, just above the heel of your shoes (or on your socks in warmer weather). Reflective material is great, but moving reflective material is awesome—as you pedal these reflective pins move up and down and make it easier for motorists to see you.

These reflective pins have several different designs. Two of the pins have small circles on them, one has the Spanish word for care or careful, and another has the Portuguese word for look out. In my opinion the most interesting pin is the one that has the Mandarin word for look out (OK, I had to ask CycleAware for the translation).

A package of five Pin Ups retails for only $5. You should be able to get this product at your local bike shop, but if they don’t have it you can order it online from CycleAware’s Website.

CycleAware has been around for 20 years and they specialize in making products to keep cyclists safe. If you really want to add some reflective power to your bike, you need to check out the CycleAware Beamer Reflective Saddle Bag—a saddle bag that is made entirely from highly reflective material.

 

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