Category: Lights

As many of you know, the crew here at Bikecommuters.com is a huge fan of MonkeyLectric — we were one of the first groups to test the original M132/M133 units, and the folks at MonkeyLectric are super nice and super talented. We had the pleasure of visiting with them at Interbike last year and again just a couple weeks ago…take a look at our coverage from this year’s booth visit.

MonkeyLectric can use your help, though…developing lights like this is an expensive endeavor, and the folks there have set up a Kickstarter page to help gather financial support to bring their newest generation spoke light, the M210 “Mini Monkey”, to market. Take a spin over to their Kickstarter page to get the skinny on their goals and some of the prizes for helping out.

In the meantime, we’ve got our hands on an M210 “Mini Monkey” to try out…I am as giddy as a schoolgirl, because this new generation of light addresses many of the “wish list” items I had regarding the older lights. I cannot WAIT to get the light strapped onto my bike and on the street. Stay tuned for that in the next couple weeks.

The kind folks at Seattle Bicycle Supply (SBS) offered us a chance to try out their house-brand XLC lights a few months back. As lighting is pretty important for many commuters — besides keeping you safe, front and rear lights on your bike also keep you LEGAL in most municipalities — we jumped at the chance to take these lights for a spin. A courtesy pair appeared in the mail a few days later, and we were off.

The set we got is the XLC 2-LED “Bright Flex” light set…a lightweight pair of lights for the front and rear of just about any bike:

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The lights are simple: acrylic bodies and lenses encased in a soft silicone shell. These lights mount without tools; part of the silicone shell forms a stretchy strap that hooks to a protrusion on the front of each light. Each light contains two LEDs…red ones for the back and white ones for the front. Let’s make something clear right up front: these are “to be seen” lights, and the LEDs don’t have any impressive lumen ratings listed on the SBS website. You will be noticed by other road users, but these lights will NOT illuminate the street in front of you in any appreciable way.

Here’s a look at the strap:
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The strap is stretchy enough to go around most seatposts and handlebars, even the newer oversized 31.8mm bars. The rear light cannot be aimed, so the seatpost angle may affect the rearward visibility of the light. Here, take a look at my setup:

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The light is still pointing backwards, but perhaps not at the very best angle for optimum visibility. It is still noticeably bright from a couple hundred feet back, though.

Each light is powered by a single CR2032 battery, a fairly common size. The lights are claimed to have a run time of 40 hours steady and 80 hours flashing — I’ve had them for six or seven months of regular use and they both continue to shine brightly. Each light has three modes, cycled by pressing a covered button on the top of the body : steady, flashing and strobe. The strobe pattern is pretty eye-catching, so that’s the setting I usually run mine on.

XLC describes the lights as “water resistant”…and that may be true in some locales, but I got caught out in a Florida rainstorm on my very first ride with them. When the front light malfunctioned the next day, I was surprised to discover about a half-teaspoon of water inside the battery compartment. I thought that with the tight silicone housing and vinyl battery cap under the body of the light, these things could shrug off water better than that. Once I poured the water out and let the casing dry, the light started working again, but to this day it doesn’t reliably cycle through all three illumination settings on the first try. I also noticed some corrosion on the contacts between LEDs and the circuit board inside the acrylic body.

Otherwise, there’s not a lot to go wrong with these lights. The body and shell are rugged, the on/off button is protected by the silicone shell and the strap hasn’t stressed or cracked the way the rubber o-rings that come with other lights might.

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The Bright Flex lights are not terrifically bright, nor are they waterproof enough for daily use, so it is hard to recommend them as primary lights for nighttime commuters. But here’s the thing…with a retail price of as little as $13.00, they are inexpensive “backup insurance”. I’ve used them in that role in three ways. First, when I go out for early or late road rides on my road bike, I stuff these lights into a jersey pocket and snap them on when they’re needed. Second, I keep them in my messenger bag for late night backup…if the batteries in my primaries fail, I can always get these out and get home safely. Third, these make great “loaners”; we’ve all been out at night with someone who forgot their own lights, and these are great to have on hand to let a fellow rider borrow. Why, my own set of Bright Flex lights have been loaned out three or four times in this way, and all parties involved got home safe!

So, for the price, these are good lights for backups. Don’t try to scuba-dive with them, don’t expect them to illuminate every pothole on your 50MPH+ downhill commute, and don’t forget to let your buddy borrow them if they forgot their own lights. As long as you keep those three caveats in mind, you can’t go wrong with these XLC lights.

XLC lights and many other products in the SBS family can be ordered through your local bike shop, and you may also find many of these items online. This particular light set also makes a great stocking stuffer for the cyclist(s) in your life.

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

Ok, as a brain refresher here is a link to the original post:
http://www.bikecommuters.com/2011/03/01/product-reviewsneak-peek-planet-bike-super-flash-turbo/

Well folks. It’s a unanimous decision. The Super Flash TURBO is a winner! Although my initial post was dated in March, I had been using the TURBO since late January. Day and Night, Night and Day. Rain – CHECK. SNOW – CHECK. SNAIL – CHECK.

The TURBO light pattern is VERY attention grabbing. AND the 1 watt LED is BRIGHT! My wife usually whined about riding behind me.

The original batteries that came with the light held up the entire time. In fact they just barely gave out last week. 4+ months run time is not bad at all! The light began to shut off on it’s own, so I shelved it and grabbed my old standard Super Flash in the interim.

So Monday morning, I slapped in some brand new ‘AAA’ batteries, jumped on my commuter bike – a 5″ travel mountain behemoth (take that Selk!), and pedaled frantically so that I would beat the lines at VooDoo Donuts. Since I hadn’t a minute to spare AND I didn’t have the PB seatpost bracket mounted, I simply utilized the tail light loop on my messenger bag. “Good enough”, I thought.

2 miles into my 5 mile commute, I heard what sounded like plastic hitting the pavement. I figured it was my 2.3″ tires kicking up some road debris. The lines at VooDoo were out the door already, so I pedaled on to the shop.
I arrived at work feeling fresh as always. As I pulled my bag over my head to set it down..GASP!!!!
The Super Flash TURBO had vanished!
That sound I heard was the TURBO hitting the pavement…
homer-simpson-doh

So, in the end here is what I determined:
PLANET BIKE SUPERFLASH TURBO = GREAT LIGHT
PLANET BIKE SUPERFLASH TURBO CLIP = NOT SO STRONG

PB Superflash CLIP

If PB could work on the clip grip, my grade is “A++” , but for now I simply give it an “A”.

(STAFF WRITER’S NOTE: Due to technical difficulties, this post was delayed…A WHILE)

I arrived home from work the other day to find a small brown box addressed to ‘lil ol’ me!

Oh! What could it ever be!?!?

Planet Bike

Mark from Planet Bike sent out a new product to try out that will be released this  Spring!

<INSERT DRUM ROLL HERE>
Introducing the NEW 2011 SuperFlash TURBO!

Planet Bike Super Flash Turbo

Here is an into from the ‘wordsmiths’ at Planet Bike:

In 2006, our introduction of the Superflash tail light ushered in a new era of innovation in bicycle lighting.  Building on our tradition, we are now proud to introduce the evolution of bicycle safety: the Superflash Turbo.  We paired our time-tested design with a powerful 1 watt LED, then added the new attention-grabbing Turbo flash pattern. It’ll give you peace of mind riding day or night.

Superflash Turbo tail light (#3070)

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

MSRP     $34.99

In my initial inspection of the light I couldn’t find any major differences. The Turbo is the exact size of the tried and true original Super Flash. The housing is identical, with the exception of the red “TURBO” printed on the clear face and the big RED Super Flash lense

Since I had just ridden home from work, my first chance to test this light out would be on my next trip to and from work.

The next day, I suited up and clipped the Super Flash Turbo onto my bike. It was a bit overcast, so ambient light was at minimal levels. I felt as if I was being followed by a group of glow-stick swinging club kids! The TURBO light pattern is definitely more eye catching…

(side by side comparison of the Turbo & Standard Super Flash light pattern)

I am excited to say I was one of the most visible people out on the wet streets of Portlandia!

Many more miles of commuting ahead of me… I’ll give you an update at a later date…gotta ride!