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Be Safe, be Seen - Lighting Up Your Bike
Over the last couple of months I have been fortunate enough to be able to road test a selection of bicycle lights kindly supplied by distributors in NZ.
Riding around 400km per week and most of it in the dark before work I figured I am qualified enough to pass judgment.
What I have found is that, there are no bad lights (who doesn’t want to be more visible), it’s just that some serve different purposes, so choose wisely.
Gloworm Lite by Gemini Industries
Purpose: front light designed to see where you are going.
Features: The GLOWORM LITE is a rechargeable 900 Lumen (Factory Rated) bike light with helmet and handlebar mount.  The GLOWORM LITE has a huge run time of over 4 hours at high or 12 hours at low mode.  The light is shock proof and water resistant and weighs in at just over 100gms. Combined with the high capacity Li-Ion battery the entire package tips the scales at around 300gms.
Review: I found this light exceeded my expectations.  I my experience a lot of the claims I hear are usually pretty generous, but this light was indeed really bright.  On low its able to light up a country road at 5:30am at over 35kph.  If really descending at speed, then high mode may be needed.  Due to me not needing to use the high mode much and switching it off as the sun rose, I found the battery to last a really long time.  In fact the first two weeks I wondered if it was ever going to run out.  Installation is really quick and simple (for me it needs to be), with a velcroe strap attaching battery under stem and a rubber O-ring securing the head lamp to my handlebars.  The unit comes with a charger, helmet mount and extension cord.  Claims of being waterproof have so far proven true.
RRP: $165
Fibre Flare
Purpose: to address side visibility.
Features:  specifically intended to be used in combination with regulatory coloured bike lights (white front and red tail) to boost overall side visibility.  Mounted on your top tube, down tube or bottom tube they provide excellent all round visibility from both sides.  Using high intensity LED’s to illuminate a flexible fibre optic core, they are omni directional and can be seen at a distance of over 300m. 75+hrs of run time with 2 x AAA batteries.
Review:  my first reaction when unwrapping these was “what the hell do we have here?”.  A quick read of the packaging had me intrigued.  Inserting the batteries and fixing the straps to the light weren’t intuitive, but then what did I have to compare with.  These lights are just so different to anything you’ve ever put on your bike.  Luckily the instructions that came with it were really clear, concise and easy to follow and pretty soon I had one fixed to my bike.  The only hiccup here was that the straps weren’t quite long enough to fix the light to the oversized bottom tubing of my Specialized SL3, which is where I reckon it would achieve maximum effect.  I put mine on my left hand chain stay where I figured it could catch the attention of motorists coming onto my road from a side street.  With flashing mode and solid mode I felt a lot more visible with one on for sure.  I got heaps of comments about it and turned a few heads too.
RRP: $59.90
PDW Radbot 1000 Rear Tail Light:
Purpose:  to protect you and your bike from rear collisions.
Features: it comes equipped with a  precision reflector and its blazing red eye contains a 1.0 Watt Japanese LED to start down vehicles.
Review:  upon first trialling this light I thought it was broken.  I pushed the button and nothing happened.  I held it in briefly and still nothing.  Upon reading the instructions I figured out you need to depress the on / off button for a full 1.5s.  This is actually a useful feature once you are aware of it.  No chance of it accidentally turning on inside your back pack.  The 3 lighting modes are a little different from the norm and certainly catch your attention.  One mode they describe as “cornea blitz mode”. But what really set this light apart for me was the brightness.  If a car hits you from behind when you have this light on then it’s either aiming for you or has been momentarily blinded.  There is a warning on the packet – THIS LIGHT WILL DAZZLE YOUR EYES.  With an array of brackets and mounting options that were all self explanatory, this light ticks most of the boxes.
RRP: ?
Planetbike Superflash:
Purpose: to provide good visibility from the rear.
Features: a unique, eye catching flash pattern offers visibility up to 1500m (claimed).  The light is lightweight, weatherproof and durable.  Includes bike mounts and clip mount and runs up to 100hrs on 2 AAA batteries (included)
Review:  I have used these lights before and for the price you can’t beat them.  Bright and super easy to install, there’s not a lot that can go wrong.  In a torrential downpour I have known them to take on water and malfunction, but an overnight stay in the hot water cupboard fixed that easy enough.
RRP: $39
Cateye Uno 1 opticube
Purpose: compact front light solution to be used to be seen, not to see.
Features: Super compact design throws more than 400 candlepower with the OptiCube lens technology. One AA battery and one LED will run up to 60 hrs in flashing mode and up to 15 hrs in constant.  Featuring water resistant construction and a FlexTight tool-free mounting bracket that allows you to quickly and easily attach the Uno to virtually any handlebar.
Review: the trial version I got for the review was all white, super compact and first impressions were “this is a cool looking light”.  Installation was very easy with the mounting bracket adhering to my handlebars very simply.  Didn’t need the instructions on this one.  For what it was designed for this light is plenty bright enough and stood up to some torrential downpours without any problems.
RRP: $?
Roxim RS3
Purpose: all in one headlight offering unprecedented brightness in a compact package.
Features: Illuminates 30m by 4m wide.  Slim and very light weight.  Very bright.  4 modes.  Offers side visibility with unique shape of lens.
Review:  I must admit that the first time I tried to mount this to my bike in the dark at 5 in the morning, I got so frustrated I had to swap it for another light in this test.  This was one light I needed to read the manual carefully.  It’s not very intuitive and wasn’t as snug a fit on my handlebars as I would like.  Once out on the road the claims were made good.  It really does offer a good strong light in a small package.  The light to me though was a little in between a light to see and a light to be seen with.  The packaging suggests using rechargeable AA batteries, but I don’t own a charger.  Overall a bit bulky on my handlebars, but a great option if you don’t want to go to the expense of a light and battery pack combo.
RRP: $?
Ay-Up v4 Adventure
Purpose: High quality vision from a compact rechargeable package
Features: extremely light weight light and battery combo; waterproof; twin beam, individually adjustable lights, Long lasting - LED burn time up to 50,000hrs.
Review: if first impressions count then this light set got off to a flying start.  Presented in a tough injection moulded pod the packaging alone is eye catching.  With the v4 model I received you get a huge amount of lighting options included.  There was actually enough in there to set up two bikes.  Included were two twin beam headlights, 2 small batteries, 1 large battery (offering a 6hr run time on high beam) and enough mounting options to enable you to fit the lights and batteries to handlebars, helmets or head.  Also included are both car and mains chargers.
On the road, I had enough options to cover all situations.  The lights performance in low light conditions were exceptional, giving off a very bright white light from the powerful LED.  I struggled to figure out when I would need to flick them on to high beam.
The system is so light in weight you can fit the light and battery pack to your helmet and barely notice you have them on.  This system really has taken lighting to a new level for me.
RRP: $ ???