Category: Lights

Just in time for “dark season,” we received a FlashBak safety light. I’ve put this baby through the paces over the last few weeks.  This includes freakishly warm temperatures at the beginning of this month, lots of rain earlier this week, and snowy slush yesterday.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Construction is simple, and use is straight-forward. There’s a battery pack, an illuminated pushbutton remote to turn things on and off, and the light rig itself: 10 bright amber LEDs embedded in a nylon strap. Several alligator clips are attached to the rig with paracord, so it can clip onto pretty much anything from jerseys and hydration packs to panniers and bookbags.

When I said the LEDs were bright, I meant it.  Aside from cropping, this image came straight off my camera without any other manipulation. Other cyclists and a few motorists have also commented on how bright it is. You will be seen.

The on-off remote can be clipped to your backpack strap, to the front of your shirt, or somewhere else that’s easy to get to and see. It has a matching LED in it as well, saving you the hassle of doing that probably-familiar “is my light on?” neck-crane maneuver.

Here’s a video of it in action. There’s only one mode, and it’s a pretty eye-catching pattern.

I don’t know how many hours I’ve gotten out of it so far, but it’s still running on the original 3AA batteries that it shipped with. The battery pack also holds the electronics “brain” (embedded in waterproof epoxy) as well as a hard on-off switch to remove any possibility of accidentally turning it on when you don’t want to.

All in all, this is a solid-built rig that seems to hold up well in all weather conditions. It’s pretty much the brightest rear light I’ve seen on a bicycle before, and the amber color is a nice touch. I still usually combine it with a steady-lit red rear tail light and DOT reflectors, though.  Some steady, bright-red LEDs and/or reflective piping added to this rig would be a great addition to the product line, in my opinion. Distance is hard to judge by flashing lights alone.

MSRP is $45. It can be purchased at a few bike shops in Austin, TX or on the manufacturer’s website:

Although this product was given to me by the manufacturer, I tried pretty much everything I could do within the parameters of my usual commute routine to break and abuse this product. The above is my brutally honest and unbiased opinion.

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

A couple of months ago, Michelle Lei, the marketing supervisor for Fenix Lights, sent me a courtesy sample of their new PD30 flashlight to test. While this isn’t a bike-specific headlight, it can easily be pressed into service as one.


Here’s some of the information from Fenix:

• Cree Premium (Q5) 7090 XR-E LED with lifespan of 50,000 hours
• 2 modes with 6 types of output
• General Mode: 9 lumens (65hrs) -> 70 lumens (8hrs) -> 117lumens (4hrs) -> SOS
• Turbo Mode: 220 lumens (1.5hrs) -> Strobe
• Digitally regulated output – maintains constant brightness
• Low Battery Indication
• Uses two 3V CR123A batteries (Lithium)
• 118mm (Length) x 21.5mm (Diameter)
• Made of aircraft-grade aluminum
• durable Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
• 49-gram weight (excluding batteries)
• Waterproof to IPX-8 Standard
• Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
• Push-button tail cap switch
• Capable of standing up securely on a flat surface to serve as a candle
• Included accessories: holster, lanyard, two spare o-rings, and a rubber switch boot

The light itself is solidly-made and feels like it…quality materials and finishing. All parts are sealed with o-rings, so it is weatherproof (I tested that by being caught in a couple of late-season downpours…no problems with the light). The light is compact, so it is easy to stow away in a pocket or bag when not in use.


I especially like the recessed lens — since the lens is glass, it could use some protection, and the light head has a built-in “lip” that keeps the lens away from scratches and other potential damages. The only drawback to the recessed lens is that there is ZERO side-visibility of the light. Since this light isn’t specifically marketed as a bicycle light, it’s probably no big deal, but many municipalities require front headlights on a bike to be visible from the sides as well as the front. Something to think about, in any case…

recessed lens

Let’s talk about the light modes…while there are six different settings, we’ll concern ourselves with the two settings in “turbo mode”. The first is the full-strength steady setting — a full 220 lumens (the Fenix website now shows that the lumen rating has gone up to 235). This intensity completely outpaces all but the expensive bike light systems on the market, and that light is easily enough to see clearly on dark streets. The beam itself has a fairly wide spread with a good “hotspot” in the middle for distance illumination. Here’s a shot of that pool of light (hotspot at top center of photo):


I’m concerned that the wide spread of light may shine into oncoming motorists’/cyclists’ eyes — some of the more expensive bicycle lighting systems have lenses and vertical cutoffs that help eliminate that possibility, and again the Fenix really can’t be compared to them. No matter…I haven’t received any complaints from anyone yet!

Here’s another shot of the light pattern — the bicycle is about 25 feet away from the camera:

The other “turbo mode” setting is the flashing strobe…and this is the setting I use most often. The Fenix PD30 flashes at somewhere upwards of 120 flashes per minute (probably closer to 200), and it flashes with the full 220 lumen wallop. The flash is so bright that it will illuminate a reflective street sign from two blocks away in DAYLIGHT. I use this setting in the mornings on my way to work and it definitely gets motorists’ attentions…nobody is turning in front of me! At night, the intensity and speed of the flashing can be disorienting as it lights up everything around me in stark relief. I used the light during a recent Critical Mass ride, and one of my fellow riders said, “wow, that light is obnoxious!” It gets attention, that’s for sure.

Fenix indicated that they may develop a mounting system for this light for bicycle/sports use. Since it didn’t come with such a mount, I used a Twofish Unlimited “Lockblock” with great success. The light’s body is hexagonal, so it won’t slip in the rubber Twofish cradle. Using such a setup means that the light is quite portable and can go from bike to bike without a fuss. And, it doesn’t take up much handlebar real estate.


My only real gripe with the PD30 is the battery situation…the light uses two CR123A batteries, and they’re not as cheap and as easy to find as AA/AAA sizes. Also, good-quality rechargeable batteries in the CR123A size can be hard to come by. Luckily, I found some great online deals on disposable batteries for this light. Battery life wasn’t an issue with the light, at least — I used the strobe setting every workday for 3 weeks (25 minutes per ride) without seeing any degradation in the strength of the light. I haven’t been able to test Fenix’s claims of other runtimes as I don’t ride so much at night anymore (no more late hours at the library!!).

Overall, I like the light — it does what I need it to do and it provides enough light to handle fast rides on dark streets. I don’t recommend the turbo-mode strobe setting at night, though — there’s another lower-intensity flashing setting built into the light that is a bit more friendly on the eyes.

The Fenix PD30 retails for around $60.00 USD…that’s a pretty good deal for a strong, well-made light that would be a valuable addition to the nighttime commuter’s arsenal. Check out Fenix’s full line of lights for every possible need by visiting their website.

Makai Bikes sent me some LED Valve Caps to review.


Bicycle Valve Light, 1 Red Led, Automatic Flashing, For A/V, W/Batteries (Ag10X3), One Pair

Cost: $11.89 includes shipping.

It’s a pretty simple install, place it on your tire valves and let the motion sensor lights do their work. Basically this thing will only work if there is movement.

I have it mounted on the Torker Cargo T.
valve cap led lights torker cargo t

On the first night I used them, they were super bright. I was on the road for about 45 minutes. I felt great about the visibility they provided. After the second night of use, another 45 minutes on the road, the lights already started to dim. My rear LED was so dim that it was barely visible.

I was surprised on how fast the batteries drained. The LEDs use watch like batteries and the last time I checked these things can add up if you have to keep buying them. So I figured, if the batteries drained in 2 days, with a total of 90 minutes, that means I’d be replacing batteries on a weekly basis. To me this LED light isn’t worth it…You’re better off saving your money and getting a rear blinky from Planet Bike…

Way back at Interbike 2007, Moe spotted an intriguing line of bicycles new to the market…check out his photos from back then by clicking here. Jango, a subsidiary of bicycle accessories juggernaut Topeak, has a pretty neat concept going on, and we were eager to get our hands on their products.

Well, after much speculation and hand-wringing, we were finally able to score a test model just less than two years after Jango introduced the bikes at Interbike! Sometimes things move with strange timing in the bike world…

What we got was a Jango 7.1 in 700c configuration:

jango 7.1

The concept is very cool: what if buying a bike was like going to a car dealer? What if you could walk into a shop, select a bike from a range of models and then select pre-configured “trim packages” or choose dedicated accessories from an extensive menu, all based on your needs? Jango offers seven bike models, nine preconfigured “trim packages” and a list of over 30 unique accessories. That’s a lot to digest!

Our test bike is the 7.1. Here’s a little bit about it from Jango’s website:

Bell: Jango integrated courtesy bell, black
Lights: Jango integrated front and rear LED lights
Pedals: Ergonomic Jango Dual Fit safety pedals
Saddle: Pressure free Allay Racing Sport saddle with AirSpan technology
Sizes: XS (430) / S (475) / M (500) / L (550) / XL (600)
Tyres: Jango light weight 700c x 38c
Wheels: Jango light weight wheel system
Grips: Ergonomic grip
Gears: Shimano Alivio 3 x 8 24 speed
Brake: Levers Jango with integrated bell mount
Fork: Jango suspension fork with magnesium lowers. Oil / Nitrogen hydraulic damping with elastomer spring. Variable compression with lock-out function. 50mm travel
Frame: Jango design with patented modular Plug in Play ports and personalized head badge theft deterrent system. Comfort geometry, high strength 7005 alu, double butted
Kickstand: Jango integrated kickstand
Seat Post: Jango with quick mount socket
Bar/Stem combination: Ergonomic Jango Vario Stem with adjustable angle and height. Forged Alu
Brakes: Jango disc brakes with integrated front disc lock
Colour: Jango Silver

With the bike, we also got a large case of assorted accessories, from cargo-carrying bits to lights, security gear, fenders and a computer. We’re going to have a lot to share, so I’ll try to break things down into a series of articles covering the bike itself, the accessories and the overall experience.

In the meantime, check out Jango’s website for a good overview of their concept and their wide range of models, trim packages and accessories. And stay tuned…the test riding has already begun!

A few months back, Planet Bike sent us two versions of their “Blaze 1W” headlight to test. Russ got the dynamo-powered version, and I got the battery-operated model.

blaze 1w

The light is only a bit bigger than many of its cousins; a slightly wider body and about 3/4″ longer than other PB lights. Much of this extra length comes from a cast aluminum heatsink that separates the head of the Blaze 1W from the rest of the body. Here’s a comparison shot of the Blaze 1W next to two other PB lights, the Beamer 1 and the Beamer 5:


The light has two brightness settings and one flashing pattern. The flash setting is the same one used by Planet Bike’s class-dominating “Superflash” taillight, and it sure gets attention…two half-power blinks followed by a full-strength blast. A friend riding in front of me stated, “it’s like being chased by the paparazzi!”

Other similarities between the Blaze 1W and other lights in the Planet Bike line include power from 2 AA batteries (I use NiCad rechargeables) and the exact same handlebar mounting clamp. I’m not a huge fan of the mounting clamp; while it is adjustable to fit a wide variety of handlebar diameters, I’ve found the mount can slip if you don’t get it as tight as it’ll go. I learned a trick from our longtime reader and friend Quinn McLaughlin…his suggestion was to add a strip of hockey-stick griptape to the handlebar just under where the clamp sits. This works like a charm and eliminates any of the slipping gripes I have with the PB mount.

I was excited to try this high-powered light — having used only low-power LED lights for years, I’ve often “outrun” the beam as I ride home from work in the dark. And, truly high-powered lights can be tremendously expensive, keeping me away from them. PB intends this light to to split the difference between “to see” and “to be seen” lights on the market…with a 1-watt Blaze LED, this light cranks out an impressive blast of light.

Let’s compare that beam to the other PB lights I have on hand…my nighttime picture-taking skills leave a bit to be desired, but I hope you’ll get the idea. In the following photo, I have the Blaze 1W, the Beamer 5 and the Beamer 1 arranged from left to right. Using freshly recharged batteries and a white backdrop, I’ve got the following beam comparison:

beam comparison

Hard to tell which is the brightest, isn’t it? I thought so, too, so I set up another comparison between the two I considered brightest, the Blaze and the Beamer 1. These next two shots are from a distance of 25 feet in near-total darkness. First, we have the Beamer 1:

beamer 1

The bicycle the light is aimed at is barely visible (but my “yard art” shines nicely!). Now, let’s take a look at the illuminating power of the Blaze 1W:

blaze 1w

Perhaps still a bit hard to tell, but in real life the difference is pretty impressive! Details are far more visible than with lesser-powered lights…and this extra visibility is crucial for dark commutes on poorly-lit routes where cracks and road hazards loom.

It is possible to “outrun” this light, too…but you’ve got to be traveling pretty fast to do so. And, of course, this light isn’t suitable for offroading or 24-hour racing…it’s not THAT bright. For around-town riding, though, if you really need more light than this baby puts out, you’re looking at big bucks for another brand’s HID/LED lighting system.

For bike commuters on a budget, this light is totally worth the price and should be at the top of your list for affordable nighttime riding. It offers impressive performance at a fraction of the price of a really high-end light system. Even if you only use the Blaze 1W in flashing mode, you WILL get the attention of motorists — this light is well-neigh impossible to ignore.

Check out more information on this light and the rest of the line of commuter-friendly products by visiting Planet Bike’s website.