A few weeks ago, the good folks from Portland Design Works (PDW) sent us a courtesy set of their Spaceship headlight and Radbot 500 rear blinkie for testing and to hang onto when we’re done putting them through their paces.
Upon opening the box, there is a startling similarity between the Radbot blinkie and the perennial favorite — the Planet Bike “Superflash” — the LED lens looks identical to the main one on the Superflash. There are some similiarities in the attachment hardware, too, and I’ll get to that in a minute. The LED in the Radbot is rated at 1/2 watt, and it is as bright as anyone could ever need in a blinkie.
As far as the light goes, the similarities end with that 1/2 watt LED and lens — in my opinion, the PDW Radbot is vastly superior to my old favorite in several ways. First, the case is held together with a screw…no more bouncing down the road only to hear batteries and case parts tinkling down behind me as the road bucks them off. An additional benefit is that the gasket seal between the two halves of the case is compressed better, giving it more resistance to water intrusion. I haven’t gotten to test this yet, but I’ve been dismayed at times by the ability of my old Superflash to let water past its gasket, and the PDW just seems more resistant to that. I hope I’m right!
Second, the body of the blinkie contains a largish DOT reflector rather than auxiliary LEDs. Having the reflector built in helps with legality issues — many municipalities require a rear-facing red reflector, and too many bikes don’t have ’em. Third, the light is actuated by a press on a real button, not a soft spot in the case. I like that…and that button has a built-in delay to prevent accidental turning on while the light is floating around in your pocket or backpack.
The Radbot 500 has three modes — an organic slow pulse (like a slow heartbeat), a slow pulse followed by three ultra-quick blasts, and steady-on. The pulsing with three blasts is my favorite mode…either flashing mode is different enough from other lights on the market that they should really stand out on dark streets. The light is powered by two AAA batteries.
The Spaceship front light has two modes — flashing and steady — and is powered by two AA batteries. As you can see from this photo, there is good side visibility and a neat feature…a lighted strip of blue along the top of the light’s body. What’s the purpose of this? Why, to look extra cool, that’s what!
The light itself is not strong enough for a “to see” light, but it serves admirably as a “to be seen” light. The light pattern is a very tight spotlight with a strong blue cast at the center of the beam, and it just doesn’t light up the road very well. But, in flashing mode, cars can’t ignore that flash…it’s bright enough to do the job of alerting motorists to your presence.
The light set comes with lots of hardware…a traditional seatpost mounting clamp, a nice adjustable handlebar clamp for the front light, a seatstay loop to hold the light bracket if your seatpost is too short or too obscured to mount the light there, a bracket for standard rear racks (thank you, PDW — not enough companies include these!!!) and the stainless mounting nuts and bolts for affixing the bracket to the rack. If you already own Planet Bike front and rear lights, you’re in luck; the clip interface is identical for both front and rear holders and you can just clip on your new PDW lights and get to ridin’ without any hassles.
The handlebar clamp is an improvement on the similar Planet Bike model…adjustable to fit 22 mm bars all the way up to 31.8mm “oversize” bars. It’s less likely to slip than the PB mount, too…although I had to add a wrap of friction tape under mine as my handlebars are an odd in-between size. Once the clamp is tightened down using the thumbscrew, it’s pretty solid.
Overall, I really like this light set — especially the Radbot blinkie. It’s my new favorite and I look forward to many miles with this light. The Spaceship makes a good “second light”, especially when coupled with something a bit more powerful for rider visibility. This set goes for about $45.00, so it’s a good deal too.
Check out PDW’s other smartly-designed and innovative parts — they’ve got a lot of good things going on — by visiting their website.
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