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?
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!

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  1. Ghost Rider

    Mad props for the “Burn Notice” shoutout!

    I hope the LED By Lite folks read and take these critiques to heart — sometimes, a pool of actual users is the only way to make an existing product better, as the designers/developers themselves are sometimes too eager to overlook problems. Sounds like they’re prepared for some quality customer service experiences should the need arise, too, and that’s reassuring.

    Standing by for version 2…did they mention when that version will be ready for public consumption, and do we get to test a set?

  2. Raiyn

    I continue to love the concept, but I’m rarely an early adopter. Sounds like version 2 will rate a look if they take the suggestions to heart.

  3. PhilGE

    I, too, would like to see the results of R&D for version 2. I hope they test it out on an Xtracycle to make sure their extension cord is long enough to attach the rear lights to the vertical stays of the Xtracycle FreeRadical..

  4. Mir.I.Am (Post author)

    @PhilGE – the Xtracycle definitely works, they have super long extension cables available and an image gallery on their main website showing multiple configurations: baby carts, tandems, you name it!

    @Ghost – Michael Westin says PATIENCE is a number one skill, and boy did this product require some for a thorough review (4 months!)

  5. Ghost Rider

    @Mir — yeah, that happens sometimes, but you did a great job of addressing the shortcomings (and hopes for the next version). Bravo, lady!

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