Empty streets in Honolulu - The "Perfect" Commute! Image from Oliver Beattie's flickr.
Do you ever have one of those late evening/early night rides home where you take some superfluous detours just to stre-e-e-e-e-etch your ride a little bit longer!? The other evening I had The “Perfect” Commute home after a relaxing work party chock full of boozin’ co-workers and tasty catered goodies. It was a just-turned dark out blissful Sunday, at no such thing as traffic o-clock. The weather was balmy enough for shorts, flowy top, and rubber slippahs for the beginning of the commute. Near the end of the ride, when the sweat starts to kick in, just a smidge of tradewinds and light showers showed up to cool me down, but not enough to puddle the pavement!
A bike shorts n slippahs kinda night
After the rain drops, I knew it was time to take the slow ride home and jumped on the “bikes and bus only” route through Hotel Street – checking out the sleeping downtown skyscrapers and local regulars chatting in front of the karaoke bars. I like to aim my front blinky light at store windows and reflective signs and turn everything into a passing mini disco pahtay when no one is buzzing past me in a rush!
Bikes and Bus Only - Hotel Street thoroughfare at night by !!wat dat!! on flickr.
I love to make random stops on the way home in different neighborhoods just to check out some new things around Honolulu. Zigzagging my way through the one-way streets in Chinatown, I passed by Mark’s Garage to check out the Bike Prom… There were bow-tied young’uns posed as bike valets out front, a bike wheel balloon arch at the doorway, and custom bike frames suspended in the gallery – it looked like a bike crack party for sure! More Sunday Bike Bliss on this commute home… it must be my lucky day. I stopped in, valeted my borrowed steed (the roommate’s Giant hybrid, a.k.a. the Banshee) to check out some peeps dressed in silly bike-themed prom outfits.
KVIBE and the bike valets at Bike Prom - photo by Malia Harunaga
Fall is here, Bike Commuters, enjoy your blissful evening rides home from work and school… leave a little bit later to miss the traffic jam and cruise through the streets with just you, your bike, some cross-dressing ladies of the night, and some blinky-ass lights!
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:
****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:
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:
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!
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!
LEDbyLite - go for the gold in Version 2 - we're counting on you!
Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.