Review: Portland Design Works’ Spaceship/Radbot 500 Lights

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.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.


  1. RL September 2, 2010 9:10 pm 

    Great review Jack! By the way, what kind of handle bar are you using on your bike? I like the classic polished alum look. It would go good on my Bianchi.

  2. Ghost Rider September 2, 2010 9:18 pm 

    Those are generic risers with good backsweep, but what I would REALLY recommend for your Bianchi is a pair of Velo Orange Milan handlebars…cheap at $19 and beautifully finished. Good hand angles, good width for city riding.

  3. Matt September 3, 2010 5:06 am 

    How does the brightness of the Spaceship compare to the brightness of the PlanetBike Blaze? Is it similar to the 1/2 watt version?

    I have the 1 watt Blaze and like it pretty well as a compromise between “see” and “be seen.” The 2 watt would be better but came out after I’d already bought the 1 watt.

    Overall I’ve been impressed by the look (and reviews) of PDW’s stuff – I don’t own any yet but would like to.

  4. Ghost Rider September 3, 2010 5:27 am 

    Matt, the Blaze 1W wins hands-down if you’re comparing the two. The PDW is more like the PB “Beamer”, but I think the focus is even more narrow…I can easily outrun the amount of light it puts out and can’t recommend it for a “to see” light. But, as I mentioned, it’s a great “to be seen” light, especially when coupled with another, more powerful light.

    I hear you on the 2W PB Blaze…it came out right after we got the 1W version to test and I really like the idea of more power.

  5. jersey rider September 3, 2010 5:57 am 

    it seems a little expensive for this product and only short focus beam,,it better to go little money on the money($$) for a charger than buy batteries..

  6. Ghost Rider September 3, 2010 6:20 am 

    This set (it comes with both front and rear lights) is competitively priced…yes, a few more dollars can get you more front light power, but I still think this PDW set is worth it.

  7. dukiebiddle September 3, 2010 6:36 am 

    I own the PDW Radbot1000 and love it. I agree that the 1/2 watt Radbot500 is bright enough for night riding, but the 1000 is so bright it works as high visibility day blazer too (most blinkies are completely worthless in the daylight). Also, kudos to its quality control, which is vastly superior to Planet Bike (30% of gross profits being donated to bicycle advocacy takes a HUGE chunk out of quality control… an expensive marketing ploy for a competitively priced product).

  8. RANTWICK September 3, 2010 9:38 am 

    Thanks for mentioning the stainless nuts and bolts… I am quite bothered by the number of bike accessories that come with standard steel hardware, including fenders of all things! When I see that a product lists stainless hardware in its specs, I automatically consider it more seriously.

  9. RL Policar September 3, 2010 12:47 pm 

    Thanks Jack,

    But my Bianchi is going to be on the dirt. I rode it the other night, and I loved it! Had some ghost shifting issues, but that was solved by aligning the derailleur hanger.

    I liked the silver bar you have, it will go great with my OEM wheels on the Nyala.


  10. Mike Myers September 3, 2010 2:30 pm 

    I like that the taillight is held together with a screw. It might make changing the battery a minor hassle(every 8 months or so), but helping the light survive pavement contact is a good thing.

    It does seems that it’s easy to make an excellent blinkie for an affordable price. Headlights are another matter. Being seen is nice, but those of us who live in the sticks need “seeing” headlights. And those cost more. Would be nice if I didn’t have to spend a minimum of a hundred bucks on a headlight.

  11. tadster September 3, 2010 3:27 pm 

    Perhaps the blue bar on top is there to help you determine if the light is on or not. If it’s getting bright outside, it can be difficult to know if your headlight is on. For example, I have to wave my hand in front of my light to see if it’s on.

    Ghost Rider, can you see the illuminated blue bar during daylight?

  12. Ghost Rider September 3, 2010 4:20 pm 

    Tadster…yes, the blue bar is visible in all but the strongest daylight.

    However, from PDW’s site: The top window lights up blue for added style points.

  13. Rider September 5, 2010 7:32 am 

    I see they have a light designed to ride on your fender … the Fenderbot.

    The Web site provides no details, though, on this particular light.

    Anyone given it a try — does it blink? Is it bright? 500 bright or 1000 bright?

    I’d send them an e-mail … but no e-mail address is given.

  14. Paul September 6, 2010 4:23 am 

    Great review, I see its advantages, I especially like the snug fit on the handlebars.

  15. dan September 10, 2010 3:05 pm 


    Any questions can be sent to either me or our info account:

    The Fenderbot has two modes, flash or steady. It is neither a half or 1 watt LED, just a simple 5mm red LED. Simple, inexpensive and great run time.

  16. Grace December 31, 2010 2:09 pm 

    how many watts is the Spaceship? I can’t find that information anywhere..

  17. Pie November 27, 2011 2:23 am 

    do you have another model.? thanks

  18. hermes April 27, 2012 2:17 am 

    I was wanting to buy this light because my commute gets really dark and since I already own the portland rear light, I thought the front one would be good. I guess not… Thanks for the review!

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