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Tag Archive: USB

NiteRider Sentinel tail light review

It has been a little over eight years since we wrote our non-scientific rear light comparo. Planet Bike’s Super Flash rear light was a top favorite and it is still one of my personal favorites.

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We were offered to review the NiteRider Sentinel rear light featuring lasers. Yup, lasers! In top of the lasers, this light also features a 2 Watt LED light producing about 40 lumens. Let me tell you, even without the lasers, this light is freaking bright. Another cool feature is that the Sentinel is a USB rechargeable light-a huge plus in my book.

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I’m guilty of purchasing those inexpensive Chinese laser rear lights and they eat batteries like crazy, not to mention that the quality of the lights was horrible. Lesson learned.

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We used the NiteRider Sentinel during most of our weekly nightly off-road cycling ride. Our local ride offers a variation of horse trails, small streets and big avenues; a rear light is a must for safety reasons. The Sentinel performed with no hiccups even going through some bumpy trails.

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The Sentinel was also tested during our morning rides to the beach on Pacific Coast Highway. Although the lasers were ineffective during daylight, the 2 watt LED was clearly noticeable.

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Pros:
USB rechargeable
Super bright 2 Watt LED light
Freaking Lasers!
Mount can adapt to most seatpost shapes and sizes
NiteRider Quality
Good run time
5 running modes

Cons:
Lasers are invisible during daylight
A little pricey at $50.00

What I would change:
I think that the concept of having virtual laser bike lanes is a good one, however, I don’t really think that we need a laser on the right side since most of us ride close to the curb. It would also be a good idea if the left laser would be 3-feet away from the bike since a few states have a mandatory 3-feet passing law.

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With its super bright 2 Watt LED, convenient mounting strapping system, USB charging and cool lasers; I can definitely see the NiteRider’s Sentinel being one of my favorite tail lights.
Our review disclaimer.

Product Review: Serfas Thunderbolt lights

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Front and back views.

I’ve been running the Serfas Thunderbolt headlight and taillight for about 6 months now, and have used them on a variety of bikes and for a variety of applications.

These lights are USB-powered and use micro-LED strips rather than bulbs. Let me tell you – the LED strips are BRIGHT!! It hurts to look at them even obliquely. This is both a positive and a negative. It’s a positive because you get around 180 degrees of visibility from each light – way more than you typically get from either headlights or taillights, and it gives a degree of confidence that you can be seen from the side nearly as well as from the front or rear. The negative? Well, you can’t mount them quite everywhere you might want to without getting blinded! Despite the brightness, these are definitely more in the “be seen” than “see” category of lights – they don’t light up enough road/trail to function in that fashion, but that’s OK since it’s not what they were designed for. I liked using them in tandem with a brighter headlight, and mounting the Thunderbolt to my fork. However, I couldn’t do this with every bike, since on some of my bikes the structure of the fork meant that a decent bit of the light actually went back up into my eyes! Not really a fault of the light – but a note for those who might be thinking of using a light in that fashion!

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Mounted on a road bike fork

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Mounted on a seat stay

The lights are encased in a silicone rubber body with straps that allow quick attachment and detachment to/from just about any part of your bike. I initially thought they might not last very long, but so far the only thing that’s happened is that the (white) models I received are no longer white, and the little flap that covers the USB charge port is a little loose (not a big deal, since that bit sits pretty tightly against the bike frame/handlebar/etc). The flexibility of being able to put a light pretty much wherever I want is AWESOME. I don’t know why more light manufacturers don’t use this method. I’ve attached the lights to bars, forks, seat stays, racks, and a trailer. No problems with them staying anywhere! Once attached they stay put.

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On a suspension fork!

According to Serfas, “burn” time is “1.75 hours (high beam); 7 hours (low beam); 3 hours (high blink); 9.5 hours (low blink).” My experience would indicate that these numbers are a little on the high side, but I can’t say for sure as I often wasn’t running them totally in a single mode for a single use (I definitely never used them on low blink for 9.5 hours). I DO know that the front has run out in under 1.5 hours of total use (two 45-minute trips in the dark, separated by about 2 hours). Similarly, I think the other modes run out in a bit less time than advertised. The only one where I’d say this is a true negative is with the high beam for the front. Most of the time, that’s the mode I want it in – and since I do ride for longer periods at night, it’s possible for my ride to last longer than the battery. I’d also say that for anyone who is not commuting to a destination where a friendly USB charger awaits, this might be a little short for longer there-and-back-in-the-dark commuting. However, it probably will cover 90% of potential users just fine.

The on/off button also functions as a mode switch (short hold to switch modes, long hold to turn off). Pretty standard commuter light function, and I never had any issues. The only (slight) beef I had with the switch is that it’s a little tough to manage in winter gloves – on multiple occasions I had to remove a glove to turn a light on. Those of you in warmer climes (or who are only fair-weather riders) won’t be bothered by this.

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Mounted around/over the stem faceplate

TL;DR summary: the Serfas Thunderbolt lights are a solid set of be-seen lights that offer unparalleled side visibility and impressive brightness for their size. Run times may be on the shorter end, but the attach-anywhere flexibility brings the Thunderbolt solidly into the “good buy” category.

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Mounted on a seatpost

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