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Tag Archive: planet bike

Rear Blinky Comparo

Since it gets darker sooner, most of us have to ride in the dark. I’m more than a little paranoid about being seen — especially from the back. Most of us know that the DiNotte lights are the brightest but they will leave your wallet very thin (about $169 bucks). So I gathered what most companies considered their brightest rear lights under $40 dollars.

The Players:

Planet Bike Superflash:

* Half-watt BlazeTM LED plus 2 eXtreme LEDs for visibility up to 1 mile
* Unique, eye-catching flash pattern
* Flashing and steady mode
* Ultra compact vertical design is weatherproof, lightweight and durable
* Includes bike mounts and clip mount for multiple mounting options
* Up to 100 hours of run time on 2 AAA batteries (included)

Thumbs Up: Small, light, dual mounting options, easy to remove, really freaking bright.
Thumbs Down: None.

Blackburn Mars 3.0:

*seven superbright red LED’s inside a sleek water resistant case.
*Lens optics increase visible distance and side LED’s provide 180 degree safety-boosting visibility.
*150 hour runtime flash mode.
*Batteries included.
*Water resistant.

Thumbs Up: Small, light, dual mounting options, easy to remove, amber LEDs on the side
Thumbs Down: None.

Cateye TL-LD1000

*2 AA batteries
*10 LED’s
*3 flashing modes runs to 100 hours
*Constant mode runs to 50 hours
*18 – 44 mm seat post mounting
*Clothing clip included
*100 Candlepower

Thumbs Up: Dual mounting options, easy to remove, multiple modes, 2 LED’s per side.
Thumbs Down: Not as small or light as the Blackburn or Planet Bike and pricier.

Lightman Xenon Strobe:

*True Strobe Xenon-white flash tube with high-efficiency circuitry for maximum visibility and impact.
*Unique Pyramid Shape provides 180° of visibility. Does not have to face traffic directly to be seen.
*High-intensity model – 3 to 7 hours; Long-duration model – 7 to 15 hours. 83 flashes per minute.
*Compact & Lightweight 3.5? (9cm) each side. 1.5? (4cm) high. Fits in palm of hand. Weighs 3.9 ozs. (115 gm) with batteries installed.
*Impact & Weather Resistant

Thumbs Up: Multiple mounting options, easy to remove, multiple lenses, remote switch (optional), reflectors, big ass blinkie.
Thumbs Down: Big Ass Blinkie, battery life not as long as the others, No side LEDs, sold in very few places.

Firefly Supernova:

Its durable plastic clip enables you to securely attach it to your waistband, belt or even your shirt collar. Wear it whenever you go out at dark and be seen by motorists from up to a mile away. Available in Red, Blue and Green. Batteries included.

Thumbs Up: Small, light, easy to remove, really inexpensive.
Thumbs Down: Expensive battery, clip on only no seat post mount, only sold at www.RoadID.com.

My Opinion
All the lights performed as advertised, they are all very noticeable and very bright. However, one light outshone the others: the Planet Bike Superflash. The Mars 3.0 and the Cateye TL-LD1000 were a close second but the Mars 3.0 is half the price of the Cateye, the Firefly Supernova in third and the Lightman Xenon strobe in last. For being a single LED light and for being the cheapest, I was really surprised how bright the Firefly Supernova is, it will now become my rear helmet light of choice. As far as the Lightman Xenon strobe goes, I’ve owned this rear light for over 2 years and LED technology has come a long way so I wasn’t surprised that it was outperformed.

Here’s a video of the rear lights from about 40 yards away, I know is kind of crappy but you can definitely see which one is the brightest light.

Just Ask Jack — Foglights for Bikes?

Quinn sent in the following question:

“What is a good fog headlight? I have a 5-LED Cat Eye on my bars, and the fog hit tonight and I had about a 20ft visibility. Not Fun!”

That’s a good question, Quinn! As I researched this, Quinn and I suspected that a low-mounted, tight-beamed light would be the ideal “fog cutter”, but despite my proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the high humidity here in Florida, it’s never foggy here, so I was really just guessing at this point.

So, I recruited someone I KNEW would have some excellent insight to this problem: champion of bicycle advocacy, low-budget bike tinkerer extraordinaire and fellow blogger Kent Peterson. Apparently, things tend to be a bit foggy in the Pacific Northwest where Kent does a lot of his riding. Here’s what he had to say:

“It was a foggy ride in this morning so I got a chance to double check my thoughts on this. So here are a couple of things.

Yep, a tight beam is what you want for fog. My choice would be a Planet Bike Blaze headlight and a Planet Bike Super Flash for the rear. In fog, backscatter from helmet lights can be a problem so I often don’t use my helmet light when it’s foggy. It’s best to have a light mounted as low as you can. Something like a Terracycles mount will let you put a light down on the fork.”

In the meantime, Quinn tried a setup on his bike. Here’s a picture of the low-mounted light (sorry for the grainy photos — unlike his namesake “Q” from the James Bond movies, OUR Q only has a PDA-based camera instead of a bag full of high tech goodies!):

The low-mounted light

Kent mentioned some problems with a helmet-mounted light creating “backscatter” — much like a car’s headlights in the fog, lights mounted at eye level tend to make vision worse rather than better in the fog. I suppose this is why a car’s foglights are mounted low…often well below the bumper. It appears the trick is to get light under the fog to improve distance vision. In the picture below, Quinn shows both a fork-mounted light and a handlebar-mounted light. Perhaps the handlebar-mounted light should be shut off during heavy fog rides?

High and low lights

The only drawback to riding with only the low-mounted light on is the “be seen” aspect of bicycle lights. Running with only the low-mounted light on may not allow oncoming cars to see you as well, or they may not be able to perceive what or where exactly you are in dense fog (“What on earth is that low light creeping along the ground?”).

It seems to me that being well-lit from the rear (for overtaking cars) is more important in fog than for oncoming motorists to see you and your lights. In this case, I wholeheartedly second Kent’s recommendation of the Planet Bike “Super Flash”…I run one on my dedicated commuter bike, and that little light packs a BIG whallop — an intense, far-reaching blast of light!

Don’t forget, also, wearing as much reflective gear as you can — and throw some DOT reflective tape on parts of your bike, too. There is no such thing as being “too conspicous” out there!

Thanks, Quinn, for the question, and special thanks to Kent Peterson for his insight!

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.