BikeCommuters.com

Rear Blinky Comparo

Since it gets darker sooner, most of us have to ride in the dark. I’m more than a little paranoid about being seen — especially from the back. Most of us know that the DiNotte lights are the brightest but they will leave your wallet very thin (about $169 bucks). So I gathered what most companies considered their brightest rear lights under $40 dollars.

The Players:

Planet Bike Superflash:

* Half-watt BlazeTM LED plus 2 eXtreme LEDs for visibility up to 1 mile
* Unique, eye-catching flash pattern
* Flashing and steady mode
* Ultra compact vertical design is weatherproof, lightweight and durable
* Includes bike mounts and clip mount for multiple mounting options
* Up to 100 hours of run time on 2 AAA batteries (included)

Thumbs Up: Small, light, dual mounting options, easy to remove, really freaking bright.
Thumbs Down: None.

Blackburn Mars 3.0:

*seven superbright red LED’s inside a sleek water resistant case.
*Lens optics increase visible distance and side LED’s provide 180 degree safety-boosting visibility.
*150 hour runtime flash mode.
*Batteries included.
*Water resistant.

Thumbs Up: Small, light, dual mounting options, easy to remove, amber LEDs on the side
Thumbs Down: None.

Cateye TL-LD1000

*2 AA batteries
*10 LED’s
*3 flashing modes runs to 100 hours
*Constant mode runs to 50 hours
*18 – 44 mm seat post mounting
*Clothing clip included
*100 Candlepower

Thumbs Up: Dual mounting options, easy to remove, multiple modes, 2 LED’s per side.
Thumbs Down: Not as small or light as the Blackburn or Planet Bike and pricier.

Lightman Xenon Strobe:

*True Strobe Xenon-white flash tube with high-efficiency circuitry for maximum visibility and impact.
*Unique Pyramid Shape provides 180° of visibility. Does not have to face traffic directly to be seen.
*High-intensity model – 3 to 7 hours; Long-duration model – 7 to 15 hours. 83 flashes per minute.
*Compact & Lightweight 3.5? (9cm) each side. 1.5? (4cm) high. Fits in palm of hand. Weighs 3.9 ozs. (115 gm) with batteries installed.
*Impact & Weather Resistant

Thumbs Up: Multiple mounting options, easy to remove, multiple lenses, remote switch (optional), reflectors, big ass blinkie.
Thumbs Down: Big Ass Blinkie, battery life not as long as the others, No side LEDs, sold in very few places.

Firefly Supernova:

Its durable plastic clip enables you to securely attach it to your waistband, belt or even your shirt collar. Wear it whenever you go out at dark and be seen by motorists from up to a mile away. Available in Red, Blue and Green. Batteries included.

Thumbs Up: Small, light, easy to remove, really inexpensive.
Thumbs Down: Expensive battery, clip on only no seat post mount, only sold at www.RoadID.com.

My Opinion
All the lights performed as advertised, they are all very noticeable and very bright. However, one light outshone the others: the Planet Bike Superflash. The Mars 3.0 and the Cateye TL-LD1000 were a close second but the Mars 3.0 is half the price of the Cateye, the Firefly Supernova in third and the Lightman Xenon strobe in last. For being a single LED light and for being the cheapest, I was really surprised how bright the Firefly Supernova is, it will now become my rear helmet light of choice. As far as the Lightman Xenon strobe goes, I’ve owned this rear light for over 2 years and LED technology has come a long way so I wasn’t surprised that it was outperformed.

Here’s a video of the rear lights from about 40 yards away, I know is kind of crappy but you can definitely see which one is the brightest light.

29 Comments

  1. Logan

    Very much agree with your assessment. Own the mars and the superflash: back-pack and helmet lights. Awesome. Sell a shit-load of these. Best head-light, in case you’re working on that too is the niterider minewt.

  2. Ghost Rider

    Good reviews….and you couldn’t have picked a better song for the video! “Hit the Lights!”

    I am a devotee of the Superflash — that blinkie is amazing.

  3. Marrock

    Try this, looks like the Firefly but has all the accessories you’ll need including helmet and bike mounts and comes in more colors than the Firelfy.

    http://www.nitevis.com/Guardian_detail.htm

  4. Ghost Rider

    Marrock, that light you put up a link to is AWESOME — I’m gonna have to get me one of those!

    I remember reading somewhere that green or amber light gets more attention at night — especially since there are so many other red lights out there (cars, other bikes). I use a cheap green blinkie on my messenger bag in addition to my regular red blinkies…mixing up the colors seems like a good idea regardless.

  5. db

    Wow, those Guardian lights are cheap. Even their batteries are cheap. Nice.

    I might just blind every Boise driver yet…

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  7. Mike Myers

    Planet Bike sets the standard for affordable blinkies, no doubt. I have one on my helmet and one on my rack—Planet Bike sells a rack mount kit for cheap that’s excellent. BUT—if you want a serious light, DiNotte is worth the money. If you watch their website you’ll catch sales quite often, and Nashbar puts the taillight on sale a lot too. The DiNotte taillight is so bright there really is no competition.

  8. Moe (Post author)

    Mmm. I wonder if I would get busted if I get 2 sets of red and blue Guardian lights (2 for the front, 2 for the back)… and a siren…

  9. Laura

    I adore my Super Blinky. The batteries last a long time in it, clips in and out easily, and everyone can see it. I cried when I lost it! But I immediately purchased a new one and have been the happiest girl on a bike since.

  10. Marrock

    Just trying to help a bit, glad you liked them. 🙂

    As for using red and blue ones together, you can try but I think then you’d have to stop at every donut shop on your route.

    I was thinking of using red and green, red on the left, or port side, of my bike and green on the right, or starboard, side… Hey, it works for boats, right?

  11. Moe (Post author)

    Mmmm donuts (with a Homer Simpson voice)

  12. Moe (Post author)

    http://www.RoadId.com is offering a $1.00 off discount with coupon code: ThanksMoises319076. They also offer the Firefly Supernova in multiple colors and a wristband option.

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  15. Jim Larsen

    Re Guardian lights, try http://www.viewit.com/

    They let you order on line.

    The ideal would be to place lights as far apart as possible, mix colors, put reflective fabric (like Reflexite)(see http://www.jogalite.com) behind them, and put on moving body parts (ankles).

    Motion, color, & size attract the eye. Eye is most sensitive to green (but green means GO). Two lights inches apart look like one larger light, etc.

  16. Barry Stephens

    Of the Blackburn Mars and Planet Bike Superflash I prefer the Blackburn.
    The Planet Bike Superflash has only 2 modes, flash and solid on. In the solid on mode it is very bright, but in flash mode the actual light that I have flahses too quickly. What I am saying is that the bright LED does not stay on long enough/stay lit long enough for the full brightness to be properly seen by human eyes.
    Possibly this is due to variations in manufacturing but the Superflash that I purchased does not seem as bright as the Blackburn Mars in flash mode. Remember, human eyes are not electronic devices and need time for chemical processes to send nerve impulses to the brain.

  17. James Slemboski

    Mars 3.0 for the win!

  18. kenny

    I agree with the performance of the Planet Bike light. I am very happy with mine…however, I found one weakness.
    It comes apart easily. I had to add some painters tape on the sides to prevent the light cover from falling off the battery pack on bumps. The 1st time it fell off was on the front bus rack. Somehow my rear rack mounting bracket and fender caught it before it was lost on the road. It sat on their for over 5 miles. I was just looking at it crossing my fingers that it would not slip on the ground while on the bus!

  19. Cod Peace

    It appears that the Lightman model you have there is the LED version, NOT the xenon strobe. I count 6 LEDs under the lens. Also, the Lightman claims a 60 degree angle of illumination, much more than the Superflash, at the cost of less light in any one particular direction. This directionality is the only weakness of the Superflash.

  20. Len

    The FoxFire lights at
    http://www.ledsafetylights.com/safety_light_details.asp?ProductID=61

    Look EXTREMELY bright with 26 LEDs. Looks like a bike adapter is coming, but it seem like it could be easy to attach, as is, to a rear bike rack.

  21. rick

    Yep, Superflash is bright! I’m out there most mornings by 5/5:15, in rain, light snow, fog… and I got tired of people riding up on me. Now I run 4 tail lights, 1 Superflash on seatpost, 2 Superflash on Topeak handlebar extender (it’s attached to the seat post, works great), Mars on rear of rack.
    What a difference. I see the cars in my mirror move over a lot sooner than they ever did before.
    More visibility equals safer ride.

  22. Rodney Brooks

    http://www.ledsafetylights.com/safety_light_details.asp?ProductID=85

    They have a new mounting bracket for their light. I’m ordered one today. Dave called me back immediately to answer an email and answered all my questions.
    I want this BIG BRIGHT light covering my big old butt!

  23. Zack
  24. Saint John Web Design

    This is awesome!

  25. Bicycle Lights

    Bicycle lights are very important in today’s heavy traffic. It illuminates the roadway so that the rider receives a clear view, avoiding all hurdles. Moreover the indication also provides a source of safety for others as well.

  26. Night Stalker

    The reviews are not helpful. There are no actual battery life comparisons, just what the manufacturer provides, and no lumens provided so that an actual comparison can be used to make a decision. The pros and cons are just the grossest opinions, no actual numbers or indicators to give a true indication of what each unit consists of and provides in its operation. I use the Planet Bike Super Flash, which I have no complaints about and feel that it is a great tail light, but have no idea if it is any better or worse than the others listed, or if the DiNotte, which is not listed and cost considerably more, is any better and worth the additional cost. The video of the different lights wasn’t just crappie as stated, but useless and a waste of time.

  27. Ghost Rider

    @Night Stalker — if you provide us with a calibrated testing laboratory and the funding to run it, we can do reviews that suit you better.

    Last I checked, we’re just a bunch of underfunded bike enthusiasts who do the best we can with the resources we’ve got.

  28. Raiyn

    @ Night Stalker
    Unless I’m missing something you’re kvetching about an article that’s five years and at least a product gereration out of date.
    You’d be the guy in a horror movie that upon seeing a loved one who has obviously turned into a monster / zombie would slowly walk up to them and ask if it’s really them or if they’re OK.

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