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Interbike 2013: New lights from Planet Bike

One of the highlights of our Interbike trips every year is to visit the kind folks at Planet Bike. They’re always happy to show off their new products, and they ALWAYS fill our sweaty hands with great swag (we got t-shirts and PB-branded Sockguy socks this year). And, we finally got to meet Mark LaLonde in person…he’s been our contact at PB for a couple of years and has been instrumental in donating products for RL’s Mobile Bicycle Repair Unit.

Here’s Mark at the PB booth:

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Planet Bike’s big news was a couple of new microlights and some updates to the ever-popular Superflash series of lights. Let’s dive in and take a look, shall we?

First up is the Superflash Micro…the same great visibility as the original Superflash, but in a smaller package. These lights take “N” size batteries, and a USB option may be coming soon:

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Speaking of USB, Superflash now comes in a USB-rechargeable version…handy for quick juice-ups at work:

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Here are a couple of Superflash Turbos, but in the new mini-size:

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Planet Bike has updated their popular ALX floor pump…new wooden handles and great features that make these rock-solid for home or shop use:

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Planet Bike has a giant collection of commuter-friendly accessories for almost any application. Head on over to their website for a full look at the many light, fender, and pump options and a whole lot more.


Interbike 2013 Coverage Proudly Sponsored by Black Tiger Jerky
Black Tiger Jerky

Planet Bike SuperFlash TURBO Recap

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”.

Product Review/Sneak Peek: Planet Bike Super Flash….TURBO!

(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!

Planet Bike Superflash “Stealth”

By now, most of you are familiar with the highly-acclaimed Superflash rear blinkie made by the great folks at Planet Bike. This blinkie is widely regarded as the best AAA-powered rear bike light on the market, hands-down.

There’s a new flavor being offered, though, for those folks out there who object to white bicycle components or who want something a little more on the D.L….the Superflash “Stealth”:

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Same great light, with a 1/2 watt Blaze red LED and two smaller eXtreme red LEDs. The rubber gasket sealing the two halves of the light has been improved, too, after some rider feedback suggested that the original gasket allowed water into the case. The Superflash has a unique light pattern, and it is truly DAZZLING. Moe did a rear light comparison back in December, and his article included a video that demonstrates just how powerful this little light is. Check it out here.

superflash stealth

This light is going to look fabulous on my super-stealth weekend commuter…a flat olive-green and black Trek 460!

One thing I should mention about Planet Bike…besides their support for bicycling (donating 25% of their profits to bike advocacy), they are really nice people who care about their customers. I ordered some replacement seatpost and rack brackets so that I could fit my old and new Superflashes on my fleet of bicycles, and when I placed my order the rear rack brackets were out of stock. Not a problem…I’m patient. A day later, Chris Follmer, ordering and customer service guru for Planet Bike, sent me an email stating that he found a spare bracket floating around their warehouse, and he just threw it into my package free of charge. Last time I ordered something from them, they tossed in some free stickers, too. Awesome!

Check out Planet Bike’s complete line of products…from powerful headlights to amazing blinkies to fenders, racks and just about everything else a commuter could need!

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.