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Review: XLC 2-LED “Bright Flex” Light Set

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.

Review: Torker Cargo T

Product: Torker Cargo T
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Price: $599.99

Weight:45lbs

Load capacity of racks: 20 lbs front, 40 pounds rear.

Features:

Extra, Extra: Maintenance-free internal Shimano 3-speed hub with twist-shifter, Heavy-duty front and rear cargo rack, heavy duty steel frame and fork — 1 size fits most, Front roller brakes improve stopping power, Sturdy DM 350 alloy rims with rust resistant SS spokes, Front and rear Fenders, Full-wrap chainguard, Cush springer saddle, Dutch “Tring? bell.

Full Wrap chainguard
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Dual kick stand — makes loading up your bike super easy.
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Fenders and racks
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Front rack and steerer lock…Locking this device prevents your front wheel from flopping left or right when parking or loading bike

We received the Torker Cargo T a few months ago and we wanted to make sure we put it through its paces by testing this bike in real life USAGE scenarios. Since the model is called “cargo”, I wanted to test out how strong these stock racks are. Some were concerned that the weight limits (20lbs in the front and 40lbs in the rear) were going to be too light for a true “cargo bike.”

Well, I’m glad to tell you through months of testing/riding, the racks have NEVER posed any type of problems. I was worried that the nuts and bolts provided would either bend or snap in half. But after loading it up many times with items from my own kids, to boxes of crap that needed to be thrown out, as well as adults, the rack system held up really well. Personally I’m not a big fan of loading up a bike on the front since it makes it squirrelly when riding.

I wouldn’t recommend this, but both passengers, front and rear each weigh 100lbs. I weigh about 210lbs….That’s one strong bike!
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Since this is a cargo bike, speed wasn’t really in mind when the bike was conceived. In fact, the Shimano Nexus 3 speed is geared just right for the times when your bike is fully loaded and needs that low gearing in order for you to get moving. I spent most of my riding time in gear 2 since this seemed to be the perfect gear to be in. 3 was best used for flats or on descents since this gear is taller and that meant if you wanted to mash on the pedals to beat the light, this was the gear to be in.

How does the Cargo T climb? Better than I expected. This all-steel cargo bike isn’t an anorexic super model, no, this would be equivalent to Bluto from the cartoon Popeye, super strong and heavy. The bike weighs about 45lbs dry. So that means climbing on this thing was a bit of a chore. Not saying you couldn’t do it, but it’s just harder since this bike weighs almost twice as much as some road bikes out there.

Shimano Nexus 3 speed
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One of the best things about the Torker Cargo T is the geometry of the bike. Notice that I’m in an upright, no strain on the back riding position. I never felt any back aches, neck pain or any type of discomfort while riding this bike.

Roller Brake

Braking power on any cargo bike should be strong, especially if you’re trying to stop a bike with a full load of stuff. One topic that often came up during the introduction of the Cargo T on BikeCommuters was the front Roller Brake. Some of our readers as well as our own Jack Sweeney, have experienced “anemic” braking power with the front roller system.

Now I’m not sure if something was different with the Shimano BR-IM41-F roller brake that was installed on the Cargo T, but those brakes worked just great. Yes its true that it won’t act like disc brakes or even rim brakes, but they do work well enough to slow you down. If combined with the coaster brake, the rollers increase the bike’s ability to stop.

One question that needs to be addressed would be the bike’s reliability. To tell you the truth, that would be the most boring part of this review. Nothing happened…The Torker Cargo T was SUPER reliable. No additional tuning, truing or adjusting was needed for the bike. In fact I didn’t even get a flat, and I rode this bike through various terrain, from paved road, dirt, and gravel.

The Cargo T has been a very fun and practical bike to have in my stable. I hate to admit it, but its taken the place of my Xtracycle. For me, I find it more convenient to grab the Cargo T, than having to lug around the long bike. Sure the Xtra has more loading capacity, but it’s also…long.

I also have to mention that this bike is very affordable. MSRP is around $500 and that’s pretty affordable (according to a previous survey that we took). Not only does the bike ride smooth, it’s a head turner and practical.

I know I’ve said practical a few times already, well that’s because I can’t get over the fact that this bike is soooo useful. If you get a chance, go to your LBS and see if they have this bike available to test ride. You’ll notice that when you ride it, you’ll automatically smile. I can’t tell you how many people have ridden the Cargo T and right away say how smooth and pleasurable the biking experience is with this machine.

Just check out Richard “Fritz” Masoner, see that smile…its because he liked it!

Photo courtesy of Cyclelicious

Legendary Alan Snel also liked the bike…

So here’s the thing, the Torker Cargo T is a great bike. It has many uses, is super comfy and a joy to ride. Will you be able to carry massive amounts of load on it? Can you carry your groceries to and from the store? Can you commute with it? Can you use it for your work/business? The answer to all those questions is, YES! This bike should win some sort of award for stimulating the economy — not only is it affordable, but you’ll save money too by riding this bike for work or when you do errands.