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Tag Archive: bike lights

Review: LED by Lite – Version 1, kinda…

LED by Lite Bumblebee2

Don't mind my dirty handlebars - here comes the review for Version 1, sort of...

Alright, alright, alriiiiight dear readers if you love blinky lights like crack candy for your eyeballs and safety like I do, you must have been excited when we received a kit of LED by Lite’s System 36 Plus Version 1 to test back in April.  Back in the springtime, RL emailed out to the team and it went a little something like this:

RL: You guys recall that product from Interbike?
http://www.bikecommuters.com/2011/09/21/interbike-2011-led-by-lite/
Well they want to send us a test unit. Anyone want to test it and give it a good shake down? Please respond ASAP.

****10 seconds later to receive message from cyber space and respond INSTANTLY!****

Me: I want SO BAD!!!  TURN SIGNALS!!! please 🙂

I wiiiin.  Like a Chinese Olympic Gold Medalist, I was proud and honored…  But, before we platform dive a triple-and-a-half gainer into this review, let me share a not-so-surprising announcement that I gleaned from the LED by Lite website:

“We want to thank all of you for your support.  At this time we have suspended sales on version 1.  We’re developing version 2 and realigning our distribution chain.”

Booo!!!  Major disappointment that the release of the version 1 Signal kits had been postponed, I cried like any second-place U.S. Olympian taking home a silver paperweight.  However, I think it was for good reason considering the glitches I encountered while attempting to give this product a deserving review.  Anyway, I wanted to share my honest review with your readers – not as rose-colored as usual – in hopes of helping out President Brandon Smith of LED by Lite, since I am crossing fingers for a successful execution for their Version 2 in the future.

Let’s talk about SPECS, baby:

Product Description

System 36 Plus

The LED By LITE bike light Systems include up to 36 state of the art, High Intensity LEDs to provide a cyclist with the most radiant 360 degree “to be seen” visibility. The LEDbike lights are encased in  flexible polyurethane/silicone straps making them waterproof and extremely durable.

The LED bike lights are powered by our BlackBox, a 12 Volt single cell Lithium Ion Battery Pack, which produces intense lighting without sacrificing run time. The technology of the microchip circuitry includes “dimming pulsating” modes, not blinking on and off. The BlackBox can be recharged with the wall adapter or from a computer using a micro USB cord.

The Plus of this system is our innovative LBL Wireless Dashboard.TM A wireless controller mounted on the handler bar controls both pulsation mode and directional turn indicator system. Your bicycle becomes a more relevant vehicle for the road. The LBL System 36 Plus improves your safety as a cyclist by illuminating your turning intentions and helping you to see and be seen.

  • Total of 36 LEDs front and rear
  • Weighs in at 250 grams
  • 12 Volt single cell Lithium rechargeable batterypack

Full Mode 3 hrs, Front on Rear Pulsating 4.5 hrs, Front and Rear Pulsating 6 hrs

  • Easy to detach cables, for quick system setup and break down
  • Wireless Dashboard: Turn on and off Pulsation and turn indicators

When I received the semi-sweet chocolate kit, I assembled it according to the diagrams that came in the box.  Brandon Smith emailed me to tell me that it was the second calibrated set to be released from their home base in Utah, and the buttons may need a little “breaking in,” but other than that, it should be pre-programmed and ready to go!  Apparently, my skills of reading graphic instructions (just put this nubbin into the little clicky clacky over there, zip tie this doo-dad and stick it to the frame with some butterscotch) was sub-par to say the least.  Apparently, allen-keying together a ZORGLFJORD from Ikea is no indication of your skills for correctly assembling the LED by Lite 36 plus kit.  I emailed Brandon the following photos for a quick diagnosis:

LED by Lite Bumblebee8

LED by Lite Bumblebee5

LED by Lite Bumblebee4

Problem #1: I could only get the front lights to work and was having a terrible time charging the battery pack enough that it could be unplugged from the wall to light up even just the front.  Brandon checked out the photos and told me I had one of the connections backwards in the “Y” shaped cable.  They are working on better diagrams to provide with Version 2.  After all was good and righteous, I then discovered that the dashboard buttons I received weren’t syncde up with the battery pack, so I sent all the black boxes back in exchange for new ones.  Problem 1 solved – properly plugged in and rigged up with a synced up dashboard.

Olympic Qualifying Move:  Brandon was very helpful and promptly answered my emails and could even figure out the problem despite my craptastic photo skills.

Problem #2: As for the battery pack charging, I figured out that if I left it plugged in standing vertically, it charged overnight.  Although, one swift paw of a kitty cat could set me back for the whole night again, so I charged it in a hidden spot, inaccessible to kitties.  Problem 2 solved – or so I thought.

Problem #3: Excited to show off my new blinkers to all those between my house and a dinner party in Makiki, I took the lights out for a 9pm test ride, only to find that (apparently) Problem #2 had caused me to lose battery power after 15 minutes of my 25 minute ride – good thing I had my backup everyday lights and the charger in hand.  Crash landing avoided!  I patiently charged the LED by Lite set up at the house (eating left-handed and playing slow-motion charades to give the charger it’s best chance), waiting for a successful test ride home!  Problem 3 avoided with helpful advice from Michael Westin in Burn Notice.

Olympic Qualifying Move: These LEDs are BRIGHT and make you feel like a bike commuter in Tokyo Drift with Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.  SBS (straight baller status) for brightness!  See and be seen!

LED by Lite with Rear Rack

Image from LED by Lite website. Cables accommodate xtracycles and rear racks!

Problem #4: All charged up and ready to roll home, turn signals and all, I get hit with a sheet of late spring rain like a power washer at a Chevron drive-thru.  I’m talking Hawaii downpour, if ya gnome sayin’.  I couldn’t see anything in front of me, and the controls to press buttons on the dashboard were the least of my concerns, so I blinked without taking advantage of the turnsignals all the way home.  Since my bike is fenderless (I stampede in the rain and change clothes when I get home) and the LED by Lite battery pack was tucked right under my seat, the entire system was moist to put it lightly.  Also, Brandon mentioned that Version 2 will include waterproof connections along the cables.  The entire battery pack was done after the first night.  Damnit, and I just got the rear lights working again!  Brandon solved the issue by sending me yet another battery pack.  A week or so later, I finally got to do some “normal” test rides.

Highlights and Recap: All color commentary aside: I had high high hopes for the LED by Lite kit, with wireless remote dashboard and turn signal capabilities.  They weren’t lying when they said this thing is bright!  Running the lights in the daytime, I even heard pedestrians shout “Hey look, the bike has turn signals!” so people do get the picture.  If charged properly it lasts at least a full day (several 10-20 minute jaunts per day).  It is easy to dismount the lights (just rip em off the rubbery stays) but time-consuming to take all the cables down since the connections are not waterproof, and often I leave my bike in an uncovered parking spot.  When I was dismounting everything from the bike except the rubber holds for the LED strips, I would remind myself of how much time I would have to take to find a parking spot if I were in a car instead… Patience is a virtue!  Water is a big issue that they need to correct in version 2 that would help with battery pack failure as well as speed of dismounting the system, since the cables could stay attached to the bike.  The dashboard is odd – buttons are hard to push – making it inconvenient/distracting to light up the signal prior to turning.  Overall, it’s not of the quality one would expect for a $100+ light system.   Let’s hope Version 2 ends up taking home more golds then Michael Phelps instead of disappointing like Version 1.  You can do it Team LED by Lite!  Go for the gold!

Michael Phelps Gold Medals

LEDbyLite - go for the gold in Version 2 - we're counting on you!

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

Bike Your Drive – Top Commuter Basics

Hey there Bike Commuters!  It’s me, Mir.I.Am, and I’ll be the host for our show BIKE – YOUR – DRIVE! (Sponsored by “Log” from BLAMMO!)

Tonight’s guests include the Bike Commuters staff writers: Matt, Ghost Rider, RL, and Elizabeth.  Since we wanted to ride the high of May 2012’s Bike to Work Month (hehe, get it? ride the high, like ride a bike) we thought we’d put together a list of our Top Commuter Basics tips for all you who are biking your drive for the month of May… AND BEYOND.  Make sure to get clicky on the links for more bike commuter basic resources – get ready to bone up on your bike commuting skills, contestants!

“I’ll take Bike Commuting 101, for $500, Trebek!”  Take it away, Sean Connery

1.     Get a Bike – If you find yourself asking “which is the best commuter bike?“, the answer is: Any bike will do!  A hand-me-down, garage revival, or a loaner from a friend.  You don’t need carbon fiber or colorful fixies to get from your house to your work.  Okay, minimum stipulations should include: sufficient air in the tires, brakes that work, and a chain.  Head to your local bike shop to tune-up the rusting garage monster if needed – often times whatever we already have is good enough!  New bike commuters can always graduate to a new bike after they’ve gotten the hang of it.  Try before you buy.

Got questions about what bike to buy? Here’s a handy article that will get you started…sort of a simple “shopping guide” to arm you for your encounters at the local bike shop.

2.     Map it Out – Knowing your route will put your mind at ease like Ritalin on the first day of school.  Check out Google Maps Bike feature for recommended routes in your area, ask an experienced bike commuter to help you pick the most pleasant routes, or contact your local bike organization for comprehensive maps.  You can even take a test ride and bike through your route on a weekend, where you can relax and take as long as you want to figure out the best way for Monday.  We wrote an article a couple years ago about other route mapping Web utilities that may be useful for planning your excursion. For those of you in our audience today with smart phones, click on this link to check out some awesome bikey apps with maps that may also be of interest.

wet commute

Know where you're going before you ride.

3.     Clothing Choice – There are two schools of thought on clothing: those who change at work and those who don’t!  You may consider changing clothes at work if a) you are a “sweater” – any kind of physical activity can make you glisten b) weather is either rainy/snowy or extra hot -OR- c) you just don’t want to wear your work clothes on your bike.  Wear something that won’t rub in the crotch, flap around and snag in your gears or chain, or cuffed shorts/skirt that can get tangled up in your saddle.  If you are biking to work in your work clothes, take it slow and enjoy the scenery!  Liquid soap for a pirate shower in the restroom is easier to carry than a bar, and a small towel to dry off with call be helpful to freshen up.  Cycle Ladies, check out this link for looking fresh after exerting all that energy pedaling to work!  If you are bringing a change of clothes to work, carrying a lunch, or a small dog, jump to item #4!

Puppy transport inspiration!

4.     Carrying Cargo – Whether it’s a rack and panniers, messenger bag, a backpack, or cleverly-rigged purse with small dog, bike commuters need to bring things along the way!  We echo the sentiments of item #1, in that “whatever you already have will probably work just fine.”  Whatever your choice for carrying your clothes, laptop, lunch, or pretty much anything barring children, any backpack lying around the house should do the trick.  The backpack is a great go-to for a no hassle bike commuter cargo containment because a) everybody already has one b) two straps are better than one since they don’t swing around to the front of your body while pedaling -AND- c) you can pretend you are the Rocketeer on your way to work.

From Randonneur to Citaden:  Conversion of a touring bike to city kid and cargo hauler

Rack to the Max: front and back!

5.     Lights – front n’ back. Everyone at Bike Commuters has a passion for blinky lights, make sure you can at least be seen with one white and one red light.  We’ve got so many bike light reviews in our archive that it’s best to just give you the direct link to them all. Here you go…lights for the front, back, sides and everywhere in between!

6.     Invest in a good lock – and learn how to use it effectively. Our article on locking strategy will help you ensure your bike is still there after work. Don’t forget to secure your wheels…we’ve also got a handy article that addresses the various wheel-retention methods.  The best method for avoiding thieves (if your work is okay with it) is to bring your bike inside – unless you work with shady individuals of dodgy moral character.  Scope out the bike parking situation at work, covered bike parking would be best.  Co-workers that are bike commuters may have good tips on the best place to secure your steed.

Untitled

So maybe now is not the season to check the weather for SNOW, but you never know!

7.     Check the Weather – before you head out, and be prepared for rain or heat or bitter cold. We discuss raingear, layering for winter weather (not such a big concern now, of course…but file it away for the cooler months), more winter wardrobe tips, and more crucial to the coming months — beating the heat.  Speaking of beating the heat, on a related note, you may want to check out item #8:

8.     Beverages – Depending on how long you will be commuting by bike, a beverage may be necessary! If your commute is longer than a few miles, bring a water bottle.  A cage mounted squeezy water bottle like this one would be perfect.  If you haven’t yet mastered riding with one hand and drinking with the other, you can always grab a swig of water at a stop light or in a greeny pasture.  Another option for carrying a water bottle is to stash them in side pockets on your backpack for easy access (unzipping your bag to search for water at a light could result in fumbling and angry drivers when the light turns green).

The active life...

"Water is the Essence of Beauty...!" - MerMAN.

9.      Repair Kit – any bike commuter should be prepared to tackle basic repair and maintenance issues out on the road, especially tasks like changing a flat. You don’t want to be late to work, do you? Here’s an article that shows a basic toolkit… easy to carry and damn handy when you need it.  There are some great comments in that article, too: simple additions to the toolkit like gloves, a few dollars and – of course – a working cellphone to help bail you out if a breakdown has you stranded.  Remember, it’s quicker to replace the inner tube rather than trying to patch it on the road. You can patch the tube later at home.   If you’re not into toting around 2 tubes, a pump and tire levers, hate getting your hands dirty with repairs, or would just rather opt out for the day in the event of a flat, just bring bus or metro fare and bike in parallel with your public transit system!

10.     Rules of the Road – So now that you’re ready to hit the road in style on two wheels, let’s keep you safe on the road.  Check out our Commuter Tools Page for state-by-state bicycle laws.  The League of American Bicyclists has a simple 6-point Rules of the Road list to help keep the ride safe and fun:

1. Follow the law.
2. Be predictable.
3. Be conspicuous.
4. Think ahead.
5. Ride Ready.
6. Keep your cool.

Plus more Ride Better Tips page offers specifics on riding to the right, signaling, traffic and much more!  Be aware while riding, always be scanning the road for debris, obstacles or jerks.

11.     Get a Bike Buddy – If you don’t feel safe getting out on your bike alone, consider a bike buddy! Chicago has a new program called “Chicago Bike Buddies“. In addition to helping you plan your route and help you gear up for your commute, a buddy also offers support and helps keep you safe out there. There is safety in numbers! Seek out or start a similar program in your neighborhood, or just reach out to anyone else you know who bikes to help get you started. Most of us cyclists love helping fellow cyclists…

Asian Love

Accountabili-buddy. Bike Commuters Unite!

Well contestants and viewers at home, thanks for tuning in on this week’s episode of BIKE – YOUR – DRIVE (Sponsored by “Log” from BLAMMO!)  We hope you enjoyed our show and learned some snazzy Top Commuter Basics Tips – this show is made possible by viewers like you!  For more information on how you can become a Bike Commuter, check out our final link from the League of American Bicyclists.  Make sure to bike your drive next week: same bike time, same bike channel.

Bike To Work Week: Rookie Commuter Resources

I love my Bike in all the months.

Hello enthusiastic readers – year-round cyclists, beginner cyclists, or future bike commuters!  Like the title above says, next week is Bike to Work Week! May is also the only month where you can cycle to work and get loads of freebies – safety tuneups, swag, blinkie lights, bike maps, and bike buddies.  Check out Jack’s article for handy links. For the bike-commuters-to-be and fledgling velodactyls, the staff writers at Bike Commuters wanted to share some tips, inspiration, and motivation to make May’s Bike to Work Week the best. week. ever. Everyone remembers the first time they rode a bike, and our readers have told us how they got started pedaling to work, and it turns out Bike to Work Week is a great starting point!

Here’s a list of some great articles I call the Rookie Commuter Resources. Hand selected and gleaned by yours truly… and don’t forget to read the comments, sometimes you guys are the ones with the best tips for bike commuting!  Enjoy:

  1. Let’s Bike – This year, Elizabeth presented the basics on bike commuting at her job.  She asked our readers to give their advice to newbie commuters.  As Ghost Rider says, “the comments are GOLD” in this one.
  2. 10 Bike Commuting Myths Dispelled Jack’s buddy Alan Snel shines truth on all myths related to bike commuting.
  3. My Conversation with a Cop about Bikes, Traffic, and Safety TipsRL hashes it out with his friend “Officer Ben” to discuss the legal stuff and how to bike commute safely within the law!
  4. Out of My Way, Boys!This article is by Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike.  A funny read for Cycle Ladies getting pumped to tear up the streets!
  5. Commuting in Style (Pint-Sized Edition) Matt gives some tips on how to bike commute with tiny humans (a.k.a. children).
  6. Friday Musings – Top 3 Must-Have Bike Commuting AccessoriesReaders share their thoughts on their favorite commuter accessories.

We know there are more out there, on our site and others, so please share more links in the comments box for any Rookie Commuter Readers out there getting pumped for Bike to Work Week: May 14th through 18th!  Pedal Forward, Cycle Ladies and Gents!

Lookin' fly, Priscilla! Bike to Work Week with your DOG!

Look What the Postman Brought in! Preview: LED by LITE System 36 Plus

LEDbyLITE

System 36 Plus Bike Light & Turnsignal Kit - Ultimate Blinky O-face.

WOOOOHOOOOOO!  Look out night riders, we have been ogling the LED by LITE Bike Light Kits since RL spotted them at Interbike last year! And we all know that a great set of blinky lights is a must-have for all ye Cycle Monsters out there bike commuting in the darkness.  The good people from LED by LITE (pronounced “lead by light” in case you were confused like me) have sent us a System 36 Plus demo kit to test out!  Let’s check out the obligatory cut and paste specs from their website, since I know I would be too lazy to browse the site for data if I were reading this post! (wink face):

System 36 Plus

Price:
$150.00
Weight:
2.00 LBS

This shows how the system works. The 48 System Plus is pictured, which has longer LED strips than the 36 System Plus we'll be testing.


Product Description

System 36 Plus

The LED By LITE bike light Systems include up to 36 state of the art, High Intensity LEDs to provide a cyclist with the most radiant 360 degree “to be seen” visibility. The LEDbike lights are encased in  flexible polyurethane/silicone straps making them waterproof and extremely durable.

The LED bike lights are powered by our BlackBox, a 12 Volt single cell Lithium Ion Battery Pack, which produces intense lighting without sacrificing run time. The technology of the microchip circuitry includes “dimming pulsating” modes, not blinking on and off. The BlackBox can be recharged with the wall adapter or from a computer using a micro USB cord.

The Plus of this system is our innovative LBL Wireless Dashboard.TM A wireless controller mounted on the handler bar controls both pulsation mode and directional turn indicator system. Your bicycle becomes a more relevant vehicle for the road. The LBL System 36 Plus improves your safety as a cyclist by illuminating your turning intentions and helping you to see and be seen.

  • Total of 36 LEDs front and rear
  • Weighs in at 250 grams
  • 12 Volt single cell Lithium rechargeable batterypack

Full Mode 3 hrs, Front on Rear Pulsating 4.5 hrs, Front and Rear Pulsating 6 hrs

  • Easy to detach cables, for quick system setup and break down
  • Wireless Dashboard: Turn on and off Pulsation and turn indicators

*Price subject to change after pre-sale ends

*Using your arm is still considered a universal turning signal

Blinky Light Lust!! I - I - I Lufff Eeet! <3

Thanks LED by Lite – shout outs to Salt Lake, UT! I love blinky lights more than robots that do chores for me! I think I might buy the postman a 6-pack of beer.  Until the review…!

Review: Monkeylectric’s M210 “Mini Monkey Light”

As many of you may know, we here at Bikecommuters.com are huge fans of the creative geniuses behind Monkeylectric. We’ve been lucky enough to test out their original M132/133 wheel lights, and we’ve visited with the Monkeylectric crew at Interbike over the past few years.

When they announced the new M210 “Mini Monkey”, we clamored for a chance to get a review sample. Lo and behold, about a month after Interbike 2011, one appeared on my doorstep. I’ve been running this thing ever since and am ready to share my thoughts and photos with you.

First off, a bit about the new M210:

– 10 Ultra-bright color LEDs
– Hub-mounted battery pack
– Stainless steel anti-theft strap
– Waterproof!
– Up to 40 hours runtime

DSC06296

The M210 comes in simple packaging — a bag for the light head and battery canister, a smaller bag for the hardware and a simple header card that unfolds to reveal complete instructions in a variety of languages. While the light head is smaller than the original M132/M133 (10 LEDs — 5 on each side — down from the 32 LEDs on the original model), it still packs a nighttime punch. This new model addresses most of the concerns some of us had over the original model — particularly waterproofing, balance, and theft prevention.

Here’s the light head — covered in a thick, rubbery waterproofing material that seals all those chips and circuits from the elements. The switches are beefy and easy to manipulate:

DSC06293

Here’s the battery pack — a canister that straps to the hub with zipties and a soft rubber cradle. The battery canister holds a cartridge of 3 AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable) and seals up tight:

DSC06301

One cord travels from the light head to the dongle on the battery canister, and the connection between the two is waterproof. And this connection is TIGHT — it is quite difficult to separate the two parts once they’ve been connected.

Splitting the light head and battery compartment into two components over the original’s “all on one” approach has greatly helped with the overall balance of the light. With the original M133 installed, I was able to discern some faint high-speed wobble on lightweight wheels (that wobble was mitigated when I installed the unit on some heavy disc wheels on my Xtracycle. With the new unit, I didn’t notice any wobble, even at relatively high speeds. Score a win for the folks at Monkeylectric!

Another plus of the split configuration is this: back in Florida, I was forced to traverse some DEEP rain puddles from time to time. Old streets, heavy rains and a substandard drainage system meant that some of the roads on my commuting route were flooded. Some of those flooded areas were nearly hub-deep, and my old unit would get submerged. I had to be diligent about cleaning the battery contacts to keep them from rusting. I don’t have to worry about that anymore — the truly sensitive parts are encased in waterproof materials and the contacts are inside the sealed canister at the hub.

The light can be programmed to display up to 15 different 8-bit patterns (skulls, hearts, and many more) in a choice of colors, or you can do as I did and skip the button-pressing and let the light cycle itself through all the choices. As with the original M132/M133, the M210 has two intensity modes — regular and “turbo”. The “turbo” setting blows through batteries much more quickly and is eye-searing in brightness, but the regular setting is bright enough on its own to spill out a pool of light to either side of the wheel. I took some still shots so you can see just how intense and colorful the M210 is when spinning:

DSC06285

And, as is my style, here is an unedited and rather crappy video of the Monkeylectric light in action — believe me, the “real life” effect is vastly more stunning. It doesn’t help that my neighborhood is lit up like an airstrip (streetlights every 50 feet or so):

Mounting the light head is a breeze — it sits between spokes and is held in place by rubber pads and zipties. Getting the battery canister mounted on the hub is somewhat more difficult…the more spokes one has, the more difficult it can be. Even with my long fingers, getting everything set and cinched up took a few tense moments. Once the canister is mounted, you will only have to worry about changing the batteries from time to time, and that isn’t as difficult…screw off the cap and replace the cells. Here’s the canister mounted to my front hub:

DSC06291

I was happy to see the addition of the stainless steel “anti-theft” strap — basically a metal ziptie — in the package. While I’ve never had a Monkeylectric light stolen, I am sure others in more urban areas might have to worry about such things. The steel strap is surprisingly difficult to cut with wire cutters (I sacrificed mine in the name of science), so it really does provide a measure of theft deterrence.

As I mentioned earlier, the instruction sheet foldout is detailed and easy to follow. And, it comes in several languages:

DSC06299

As we’ve discussed over and over again here, there are not enough products on the market to help with that crucial “side visibility” — while many front and rear lights spill to the sides, additional safety for nighttime commuters is always a good thing. And this is where Monkeylectric’s products really shine (pun intended). The M210 provides an incredibly effective means to get you noticed out on the darkened streets where you live, all the while having fun with patterns and colors! The Monkeylectric M210 retails for around $50.00, and is worth the price of admission. Another hit from a great bunch of creative folks!

Now, if we can only get the crew to let us borrow one of their “PRO Series” models….

Visit Monkeylectric for more details, images and video of their lights in action.

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