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Lights

Product Review: Serfas Thunderbolt lights

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Front and back views.

I’ve been running the Serfas Thunderbolt headlight and taillight for about 6 months now, and have used them on a variety of bikes and for a variety of applications.

These lights are USB-powered and use micro-LED strips rather than bulbs. Let me tell you – the LED strips are BRIGHT!! It hurts to look at them even obliquely. This is both a positive and a negative. It’s a positive because you get around 180 degrees of visibility from each light – way more than you typically get from either headlights or taillights, and it gives a degree of confidence that you can be seen from the side nearly as well as from the front or rear. The negative? Well, you can’t mount them quite everywhere you might want to without getting blinded! Despite the brightness, these are definitely more in the “be seen” than “see” category of lights – they don’t light up enough road/trail to function in that fashion, but that’s OK since it’s not what they were designed for. I liked using them in tandem with a brighter headlight, and mounting the Thunderbolt to my fork. However, I couldn’t do this with every bike, since on some of my bikes the structure of the fork meant that a decent bit of the light actually went back up into my eyes! Not really a fault of the light – but a note for those who might be thinking of using a light in that fashion!

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Mounted on a road bike fork

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Mounted on a seat stay

The lights are encased in a silicone rubber body with straps that allow quick attachment and detachment to/from just about any part of your bike. I initially thought they might not last very long, but so far the only thing that’s happened is that the (white) models I received are no longer white, and the little flap that covers the USB charge port is a little loose (not a big deal, since that bit sits pretty tightly against the bike frame/handlebar/etc). The flexibility of being able to put a light pretty much wherever I want is AWESOME. I don’t know why more light manufacturers don’t use this method. I’ve attached the lights to bars, forks, seat stays, racks, and a trailer. No problems with them staying anywhere! Once attached they stay put.

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On a suspension fork!

According to Serfas, “burn” time is “1.75 hours (high beam); 7 hours (low beam); 3 hours (high blink); 9.5 hours (low blink).” My experience would indicate that these numbers are a little on the high side, but I can’t say for sure as I often wasn’t running them totally in a single mode for a single use (I definitely never used them on low blink for 9.5 hours). I DO know that the front has run out in under 1.5 hours of total use (two 45-minute trips in the dark, separated by about 2 hours). Similarly, I think the other modes run out in a bit less time than advertised. The only one where I’d say this is a true negative is with the high beam for the front. Most of the time, that’s the mode I want it in – and since I do ride for longer periods at night, it’s possible for my ride to last longer than the battery. I’d also say that for anyone who is not commuting to a destination where a friendly USB charger awaits, this might be a little short for longer there-and-back-in-the-dark commuting. However, it probably will cover 90% of potential users just fine.

The on/off button also functions as a mode switch (short hold to switch modes, long hold to turn off). Pretty standard commuter light function, and I never had any issues. The only (slight) beef I had with the switch is that it’s a little tough to manage in winter gloves – on multiple occasions I had to remove a glove to turn a light on. Those of you in warmer climes (or who are only fair-weather riders) won’t be bothered by this.

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Mounted around/over the stem faceplate

TL;DR summary: the Serfas Thunderbolt lights are a solid set of be-seen lights that offer unparalleled side visibility and impressive brightness for their size. Run times may be on the shorter end, but the attach-anywhere flexibility brings the Thunderbolt solidly into the “good buy” category.

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Mounted on a seatpost

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

Sneak Peek: the Latest Lineup on Lights from Planet Bike

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A great set of bike lights are a must for any bike commuter. But, sometimes there are an overwhelming amount of choices at you local bike shop. My no-brainer go-to? Planet Bike: a fantastic company with standup values and reasonably priced products that perform well.

Sometimes you can’t make a decision on what lights are best for your bike commute, so you just have to put on your neon jacket.

My last set of lights were from PB, and they lasted me over 4 years, only to be bequeathed to my sister along with my orange Le Tour II as I left my bikes behind for a year of travel – (to my knowledge, all still in working condition). When I arrived back in the states, RL hooked me up with a welcome package of PB goodies to review.

Here’s a sneak peek at the lineup for the latest evolution of PB lights that I will be reviewing shortly:
Micro features:

  • High and low-power beam along with SUPERFLASH™ mode
  • Optically-advanced lens provides superior beam patternSUPERFLASH™ mode is highly visible, even in daylight
  • QuickCam™ bracket mounts, adjusts or removes in seconds w/o tools
  • Up to 64 hours runtime (flashing) on 2 AA batteries included
  • 139 Lumens

Turbo features:

  • One Watt Power LED plus 2 red LEDs for visibility up to 1 mile
  • New attention-grabbing Turbo flash pattern
  • Turbo flash mode is highly visible, even in daylight
  • Ultra compact vertical design is weatherproof, lightweight and durable
  • Includes bike mounts and clip mount for multiple mounting options
  • Soft-touch power switch accesses flashing or steady mode for up to 100 hours of run time on two AAA batteries
  • Weighs 75 grams with batteries

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The Micro Blaze 2W headlights run for $39.99 MSRP a piece and the Micro + Turbo front and rear combo sells for $74.99 MSRP. For the quality, the price can’t be beat! I can’t wait to test these guys out after my satisfaction with the longevity of my original 1W Blaze headlight. That’s about 10 bones a year, if you don’t lose it after four years!

In the meantime, if you are without bike lights, get out there and enjoy these long summer days and stretch our your evening commutes. Laters, Cycle Gators.

 

Click here to read our FTC Disclaimer.

No lights necessary: Indian Summer – Dottie’s ride in 2012. Courtesy of Let’s Go Ride a Bike.

 

MonkeyLectric launches Kickstarter campaign

You may have noticed that we don’t pitch very many Kickstarter campaigns here — and lord knows we field a TON of them every week. It’s sort of an unwritten rule here at Bikecommuters.com…you want crowd funding? Take it somewhere else.

There are exceptions, of course, and here’s the latest from MonkeyLectric, which happens to make really great bike lights and has been good to us over the years, letting us test prototypes, shooting the breeze with us at Interbike, and advertising here to help us keep the site running.

Along with the lights we’ve reviewed here, MonkeyLectric also makes a “Pro” series light (mostly a prototype/custom-orderable) that is, well, frighteningly expensive. Enter the Kickstarter campaign — seeking a way to be able to mass-manufacture this light system at a better pricepoint:

MonkeyLectric Kicks Off Funding Production of Revolutionary New Bike Light via Kickstarter
Monkey Light Pro gives bike riders a novel way to express their unique individuality in a dazzling manner

BERKELEY, CA. MAY 22, 2013 – MonkeyLectric announced today the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to fund manufacturing efforts of its new product, the Monkey Light Pro, a unique bicycle light that utilizes cutting edge technology to allow users to display images and animation on their spinning bicycle wheel. The Pro series is for people who want to get their message out, express their individuality and be seen. The company is using the crowdsource fundraising efforts of Kickstarter to finance the manufacturing, which can be found at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/minimonkey/monkey-light-pro-bicycle-wheel-display-system?ref=live.

The Monkey Light Pro, a more technologically advanced version of the popular Monkey Light Mini and the original Monkey Light models, features 256 LED lights and 4,096 colors that can be customized into designs uploaded via Bluetooth. Monkey Light Pro also allows users to upload up to 1,000 photos or 90 seconds of video. The Pro series is mounted to the bicycle wheel where it is easily viewed from both sides and multiple angles; the Pro is shock resistant and weatherproof.

Driven by MonkeyLectric’s eclectic backgrounds, the lighting art featured in their namesake product are designed by various graphic and psychedelic artists, including the well known David Ope, and provides riders the ultimate way to express their creativity. When the bike is in motion, it uses the “persistence of vision” effect to display the images that come pre-loaded or created by the users through its open source API.

Previous prototypes and models of the Monkey Light Pro are currently on display at major shows, in museums, as well as in Japan in collaboration with the Fukushima Wheel Project. This particular project utilizes a modified Monkey Light Pro attached to environmental sensors, where light patterns adjust to the levels of environmental pollutants in the area. The Kickstarter campaign hopes to make the product more accessible to developers, artists and the general public.

“Our first Kickstarter campaign allowed us to establish our own manufacturing line here in the USA,” said Dan Goldwater, MonkeyLectric’s CEO. “The success of that campaign helped us create 3 new jobs, make fixed capital investments in machinery, and relocate to a larger facility. With this campaign we hope to continue to invest in our manufacturing capabilities and make the world’s most advanced bicycle display system available to the market.”
During the campaign, Monkey Light Pro will be available to the first twenty pledges for $495, forty at $595 and 100 at $695. The price point after the campaign will be $895.

The Kickstarter page for the new Monkey Light Pro can be found at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/minimonkey/monkey-light-pro-bicycle-wheel-display-system?ref=live

About MonkeyLectric, LLC

MonkeyLectric was founded by Brown graduate and MIT scientist Dan Goldwater in 2008 and is the leader in fun and visible bike lighting. Based in Berkeley, California, the small company aims to make cycling fun and visible. They created the Monkey Light to be make to make riding at night just as fun as during the day. Over the top creativity and tongue in cheek marketing campaigns have put MonkeyLectric on the map, and all products are proudly made in the USA. Learn more at http://www.monkeylectric.com.

Just to give you an idea of how amazing the Pro light system is, check out this video that showcases the capabilities:

Orp Smart Horn – soon to be tested here

Orp in red. Also comes in asphalt black, frostbyte white, safety cone orange, wail blue, snot green, and worm white (glorp)

With 5 days to go on this Orp Kickstarter campaign, the Orp Smart Horn is soon to go into production and we’ll be getting one to test!

As a safety conscious cyclist I value that this product attempts to make cyclists both more visible and audible on the roadways.

THE IDEA: Make bikers more visible and /or more “hearable”.
THE SOLUTION: A combination dual tone, high decibel bike horn and front beacon light.
Meet Orp.

As creator Tory Orzeck says on the page:

“Really long story short, we developed this super loud, dual decibel horn. Only after that did we discover the Piezo speaker and its circuitry barely taxed the battery to drive the sound. Sitting right there in front of us, we had everything we needed to add LEDs. So, we ended up combining two products: a beacon light and a horn into one small and (we think) beautiful product.”

This product was thought up in Portland and we’ll certainly put it to the test in Chicago.

Just the other night I was nearly right-hooked by a driver insistent on getting into the right lane to make a turn. He had just passed me and then nearly pulled in front of me. Not even my two front LED blinkies and bell got his attention; my yelling and the screeching of my squealing brakes did get his attention – “WHA…WHOA…LOOK OUT!” (or something to that effect)


Orp’s Horn has 2 modes: soft and WAY loud

The Wail Tail is the ergonomic and intuitive switch controlling the horn.

When you need to alert other cyclists or pedestrians, a small displacement {up or down} of Orp’s Wail Tail produces a friendly chirp at 76 decibels.

When you’re in traffic, and you need to let cars know where you are, then just push a little harder {up or down} and Orp’s “HERE I AM!” sound emits an ear blistering 96 decibels. This is FAR louder than the most popular bike bells.

I could use a horn!

2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Our Top Picks for Your Wish List!

Well, well, well, Bike Commuters – the 2012 Holiday Gift guide is here, in case your favorite mail-order catalog is all out of Leg Lamps for you, your bikey friends and family.  We’ve reviewed a ton of products this year but only a few made the list!  Click on the images to link to the product’s shopping website.  (FTC Disclaimer)

Gifts for Under $20

Loop EVA Bar Tape

Loop EVA Bar Tape

Planet Bike 25g Twinpack CO2 cartridges

PB 25g Twinpack CO2

Jimi Wallet

Mir loves her JIMI Wallet

Fyxation Loop Eva Bar Tape: The quality, durability, low price and color choices make it a great product for any bike commuter to use. $13.95 and available in 5 colors: black, pink, orange, green, and white.

Planet Bike 25g Twinpack CO2 Cartridges:  Need to fill a high-volume tire on the go? You could carry a handful of smaller cartridges or just one of these mini-SCUBA tanks from Planet Bike and be on your way in no time!  Two for $20.99.

JIMI Wallet: clip your keys to it and stash it in your pack, jersey, fannypack, whatever.  Water resistant and with a lifetime guarantee (I’ve tried it and they sent me a new one!) and comes in many colors for $14.95.

Clothes

Hiviz yellow O2 Rainwear Calhoun Jacket

Ghost Rider's all about the Rainwear Calhoun Jacket - $119.00

Pedal Power Wind Shirt white

Mir.I.Am felt flossy-flossy in the Lululemon Wind Shirt for $59.00!

O2 Rainwear Calhoun Jacket:  This quality jacket performs admirably when the weather turns sour.  Rainproof, windproof, and you don’t feel clammy! It looks nice, it has good features and visibility, and it is packable enough that there’s really no excuse not to bring it with you.

Lululemon Duds: Lululemon makes small batches of high quality, stylish commuter clothes for women and men.  We loved the Pedal Power commuter fall lineup for women, especially this snazzy blouse/windbreaker.  The lineup is constantly changing… a nice gift with a nice price, since all the Pedal Power items are on final sale for half the price.

Planet Bike Borealis Gloves

Jack gave the PB Borealis Gloves two lobster claws up!

Novara Stratos Gloves

Matt also likes the Novara Stratos Gloves, $38.00 at REI.

We liked the Planet Bike Borealis “lobster” gloves because they bring together a warm inner liner and a windproof outer shell. They also keep your last 2 digits a lot warmer than regular separated gloves, without losing any of the function you need while riding.  All for the cozy price of about $42.00.  Matt also recommends the Novara Stratos gloves, which are along the same lines as the PB Borealis but without the removable liner, and with the addition of handy draw cords for a windproof fit!

Though this item was not necessarily reviewed on BikeCommuters.com, our sister site MtnBikeRiders.com loved these unique socks that are partially made with Possum hair…yes Possum hair! We figured the BikeCommuters.com readership would appreciate them: Pearly’s Possum Socks
Pearly's Possum Socks on MtnBikeRiders.com

Packs

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Henty Wingman suit bag

Module 25 Waterproof Commuter Women's Pack

Women's Velo Transit Module 25.

Velo Transit Edge 40

Men's Velo Transit Edge 40.

For those of us who don’t have the option of dressing down, the Henty Wingman is the best suit-carrying pack we know of.  A pricey option, but if you are wearing suits to work, it’s worth it for a $180 suit bag. For any distance on a bike that requires carrying a suit with you, this pack is the way to go.

We reviewed two Velo Transit packs (women’s Module 25 and men’s Edge 40)  and came away really impressed by both. Waterproof, comfortable, and with pockets for everything, the only reason not to get these is price (about $160 for the women’s and $225 for the men’s)… but we’d still recommend getting these and scrimping elsewhere (ramen really isn’t that bad…). Get one and you’ll thank us! Velo Transit has several size options and colors to fit any commuter’s wish list.

Bikes and Components

Xootr Swift

Mir's new best friend: the 8-speed Swift folding bike.

Freedom Cruz 29ers

Matt upgraded his ride with these Freedom Cruz 29ers!

Xootr Swift: If you know anyone who’s looking to get into the fold, without sacrificing the speed on their commute, the Xootr Swift could be your new best friend!  Hills are a breeze with the multiple speeds and the BMX tires ensure a durable commute.  The Swift packs up fast and light for $750.

Freedom Cruz Tires proved to be great for those with 29ers (or 700c bikes with lots of clearance) wishing for a road-oriented tire. Big and smooth-rolling, they’ll make you question why you ever thought 700×25 was a good idea.  $34.99 to upgrade your ride.

Motiv Electric Bike

RL was a big fan of the Motiv Electric Bike starting at $1749.00 with customizable colors for frame, rims, and tires.

Motiv Electric Bicycle. We liked Motiv because there are so many options you can go with when ordering a bike. From tire, rims, cockpit colors and battery/power options, a person can customize their bike to have it built just the way they want it.

Ridekick E-Trailer. We liked it because it turns any bicycle into an e-bike, plus it has storage capabilities.  The RideKick is a great way to repurpose your old ride with extra speed and extra space. The price for the trailer ranges from $699 to $1359, depending on features.  It’s a blast to ride, too!

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RL's test ride on the Ridekick was a blast. Put it on your wish list if you want to upgrade to electric.

Miscellaneous

We recently featured Balance Insurance for the sake that it would be a great thing to have for bike commuters. With annual premiums as low as $63, you just can’t go wrong.

Balance insuranceAs cyclists we all know that at some time we might come off our bikes and hit the ground hard. Most cycling accidents are relatively minor. Some will require medical attention. And then there are those life altering accidents that can cause hospitalization, permanent injury or death. For those latter injuries we created Balance For Cyclists. Balance For Cyclists pays large lump sum cash benefits over and above other insurance to cyclists who are injured in serious cycling accidents. Limits are available between $50,000 and $250,000 and all benefits are paid directly to the insured or their family.