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  1. #1
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    USB Commuter Lights

    Just wondering if anyone has any feedback experience with any of the USB commuter lights that are starting to show up? I am strictly a daylight commuter, so I am just looking for the flashing LED effect to better be seen. As well, I like the idea of not having to buy batteries. I am down to the Blackburn or Topeak combo sets.
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  2. #2
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    Reviews on the Flea aren't so positive (Amazon). Both offerings look to be very similar too.

    I have the Cygolite Expilion 250. Works great and serves as both a see and be seen light @ 250 Lumens. I like it so much Cygolite got some free advertising.

  3. #3
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    I don't know of any bike tail light shoot outs, does anyone? So comparing them in usefulness and to the best out there is difficult, Some points you may wish to ponder (we need to keep healthy (not hit) all the cycling commuters we can get!):

    First point. You are buying rechargeable batteries in the lights. So buying separate rechargeable NiMH AAA cells is not different in the sense of having or not having rechargeable batteries. Agree that not buying disposable ones all the time is a good idea.

    Goal is to be seen and not hit. Getting through to drivers who are on the phone and not paying attention is tough. Worse some locales than others. Here, well aimed Planet Bike Superflashes with recently charged NiMH cells don't do squat in the day at a distance. Essentially they are good short range so I use them as side markers or on the helmet for closer drivers only.

    Daytime requires more punch than most blinkies have. You need to be seen, registered, and evaded in time by drivers. Unless the lights claim daytime use, they won't be. If they do, they MIGHT be OK. Check out the Radbot 1000 in the 'Another Commuting Thread About Lights' thread both daytime and night videos on the second last page show this light in action. Want more power? The Dinotte 140 has it at a price, or go DIY.

    I am betting my physical well-being, so the need to pull the cells and swap in charged ones every 8 hours (100 mAh cells) or so in summer and 4-5 in winter is a small price to pay IMHO. As they say 'Safety does not cost, it pays.' Also, if on a longer ride, I can carry spare cells or buy cells en route if need be.

    That's my take. It's a different form of Highway Robbery: It's your money AND your life.

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    I don't like buying batteries either, but rechargeable batteries and a charger work fine also. In fact, NiMH batteries are better for lighting because they can output more current longer compared to alkaline batteries. For LEDs which depend on current, NiMH will run the lamp brighter and longer than alkaline batteries.

    From Amazon, $10 buys a set of four Sanyo Eneloop AA or AAA. A smart charger can be bought for about $20-25, maybe less.

  5. #5
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    You should look at the new Rav-X light sets that are charged by usb. They are pretty bright and small, they can fit on almost any section of the bike. worth a look.

  6. #6
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    I got 4 Maxell, Ooops! Energizer 1000 AHr AAA's for under $8 with tax using a coupon and catching them on sale at Target. My old 700 aHr Radio Chack ones were still going strong but the added run time is great.

    Looked up the Rav-X. 45 lumens max is nice, but with no lens to concentrate any or all the 5 LED's, they emit into almost 180 degrees. That will spread teh 45 lumens so it will not punch hard enough for a sunny day. Runtime on full is 1 hour, flash is 5 hours so about a Radbot's winter runtime. If I didn't have the Superflashes already, I'd consider them as side marker lights. Or as backup lights or the white ones as be seen lights with a narrow beam headlight, BUT not as a main marking light. The video I was was against a door in a house. Completely useless. It shows they light up. I want to see them on a bike at distances. Anything else is a waste of video processing and posting and makes me think they are poor.
    Last edited by BrianMc; 02-27-2011 at 07:11 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by rollinlegend
    You should look at the new Rav-X light sets that are charged by usb. They are pretty bright and small, they can fit on almost any section of the bike. worth a look.
    Wow, that is a pretty obscure company and they really do not seem to have a distribution network!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianMc

    Looked up the Rav-X. 45 lumens max is nice, but with no lens to concentrate any or all the 5 LED's, they emit into almost 180 degrees. That will spread teh 45 lumens so it will not punch hard enough for a sunny day.
    LEDs generally have a much narrower view angle than 180. 90-120 degrees is typical; sometimes even less depending on design.
    Last edited by jseko; 02-27-2011 at 11:03 PM.

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    I have the blackburns and for what they are they do a fine job. Plenty bright on the front to see for general road rides, and the strobe in super intense. I am very happy with them.

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    Dinotte 300R

    Spurred by another thread regarding batteries & Dinotte lights I saw this on their site:

    http://store.dinottelighting.com/sha...t=products.asp

    Pricey - but is there anything else out there with similar qualities? I have really gotten to like the convenience of USB charging. It seemed gimmicky at first - but now when I get into the office plugging in is part of my routine.

  11. #11
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    This is the only USB light I would buy - http://www.bikelights.com/vis360.html#

  12. #12
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    I am enjoying looking at all of the recommendations that people are making, but would enjoy hearing some pros and cons on the systems with actual feedback. Many of them seem like very expensive options, which I could justify if I needed them to see at night. I already have a 900 lumens headlight, but just need strobing led's that can be charged at my desk when low and to get noticed in the day.

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    I know it's expensive, but nothing is going to get you seen better than a light onto of your head. That is why I recommended the L&M Vis360

    If you want something low maintenance on your bike that will get you noticed, take a look at these - http://www.universalcycles.com/shopp...&category=3679

    You don't have to worry about batteries/charging at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kustomz
    I am enjoying looking at all of the recommendations that people are making, but would enjoy hearing some pros and cons on the systems with actual feedback. Many of them seem like very expensive options, which I could justify if I needed them to see at night. I already have a 900 lumens headlight, but just need strobing led's that can be charged at my desk when low and to get noticed in the day.
    These lights are perfect for what you describe, the only thing that I am not sure of i how long they will last. I have only had them since fall and haven't used them more than 4 or 5 times with winter leaving me bikeless.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by jseko
    LEDs generally have a much narrower view angle than 180. 90-120 degrees is typical; sometimes even less depending on design.
    To the OP: Forgive this digression. It is too important to let lie.

    Short reply:

    Output angles of bare LEDs even at 90 degrees are too wide for a good effective 45 lumen light IMHO. If a designer has a few tens or hundreds of lumens in a bike tail light he/she needs lenses or reflectors for it to be effective at distance and in the daytime. Using bare LEDs is a waste, and little better than no tail light, at all with current distracted drivers. That's my take.

    Long reply to save some back and forth:

    Firstly, the 90 and 120 degree angles are NOT a cutoff for all output of an LED. It is the point where the intensity is 50% of the peak intensity on axis. To get the power output of the center and the rings around it like from 120 to 180 degrees, you have to integrate in a circle over the parts of the beam you are interested in. I made that area dependent error too, so I sympathize.

    So the LED output curve by angle defines the axial peakiness of Power LEDs in a cross section of the beam. It predicts how well a small lens or reflector can tame a goodly part of the output into a narrow, say < 10 degree Full Width Half Maximum (FWHM) beam which is the total angle where the beam is at or above 50% of the max intensity.. You may still get an appreciable output from angles wider than the 50% point depending on the shape of the curve of teh lens or LED. It has little to do with my comment about the Rav-X.

    Secondly, the hard case 1/4 watt LEDs are not equiped with a gel lens systems of power LEDs used to maximize light output per watt. So one would expect them to have an even broader output, possibly a ragged one, but I have not seen any plots. That was not my point either.

    My point is that with only 45 lumens, a lens or reflector is needed to concentrate the light into a beam if you expect it to be seen at a distance and in the day. This is REGARDLESS of its peakiness or lack thereof in output. the Rav-X is using the primary lens package of the LED only, so it fails to control its decent but small output well enough.

    In case some are not convinced, let's take the 90 degree example and see what sort of tail light beam that get's us: A 90 degree beam is 45 degrees to either side of the bikes' center line in a cone if placed properly. So it is lighting things up fifty feet to each side fifty feet behind the bike (and above it) and a triangle on the road at the 50% of max level. there is still a lot of output even wider than 45 degrees to each side. Such a light sprinkles the photons in a broad swath. A lens or reflector is like placing your thumb on a water hose for a long distance brother-soaking jet, versus trying to get him at the same distance with a sprinkler covering 90 degrees with the same hose and pressure. Pathetic. (Unless you attach a Fire Department Pumper for more volume and pressure (just like more lumens), but the Rav-X has only 45.

    The Planet Bike Superflash, a long time 'best of the blinkys' choice for proven reasons, puts out a narrow beam that is as wide as the lane at something like 100-200 feet behind you, and is just visible in the day under the worst conditions at 1/4 mile. It is only about 1/3 the lumens of the Rav-X with a fresh set of batteries and 1/4 of that after the first hour (really drops after 10 hours on steady mode). However, it concentrates its light instead of scattering it. There is still a good amount of 'spill' which is light outside the main part of the beam to help with people who are closer, plus they let otherwise wasted light out the sides to help that, too. Although it can be seen, it doesn't attract cell-phone using driver's attention soon enough or strongly enough in the day, unless they are very bicycle conscious. (Not here.) The Radbot 1000 is much the same but with about 25 lumens output for 8 hours (2X the Superflash), enough to be easily seen in the day at 1/4 mile in 'washing out' low sun conditions and is clearly visible by even slightly inattentive drivers because of the lens. There is no excuse for not seeing it. I use a pair on the fast bike, the one that fakes them out.

    So tail lights are NOT about firepower alone but accuracy. No lens or reflector: no accuracy, no distance, and no daytime punch UNLESS many hundreds or even thousands of lumens are thrown around.

    The Dinotte (140 Lumens) mentioned above and twin Radbot 1000s (50 lumens) easily light up road signs behind so they help as a front warning device, as well as being visible for over 1/4 mile in the day. They have a bit wider beams, too. The Dinotte (140 lumen in a narrow beam) and my two 100 lumen DIY lights are easily seen at 1/4 mile with the sun washing them out, and maybe a mile under better conditions (according to friends who have seen me). At that distance the beams are very wide, more than 4 lanes but I did not check exactly how wide. Nice if you ride a shoulder along a winding road with traffic doing 50-70 mph. If they have a sight line they WILL see the lights.

    Just remember you ARE betting your life. You can see my efforts to safeguard mine recorded with some effort and shared to help all here in the 'Another Commutting Thread About Lights' as well as Leopold Porkstacker's 600-1000 lumens DIY monsters that spread light. (Remember the Fire Pumper anaology for spraying a brother at distance with a sprinkler?)

    Hope this helps.

  16. #16
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    I will get some Blackburns on the way tomorrow, then see if I can get some daytime video riding away from and towards to give everyone an idea of their capabilities.

  17. #17
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    I received a Cygolite ExpiliOn 250 a while back ago from a friend and it is very convenient to use on my road bike. I took it apart and replaced the original led with a XPG R5; much brighter now.

    For a commuter/roadie, this is more than enough. I use a DIY bar/helmet setup for my mtb (~2500 lumen).
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  18. #18
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    Dumb question time here-
    by "USB light", are you guys talking about computer accessory connections? If so, it doesn`t mean that the lights are computerized or programable, does it?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    Dumb question time here-
    by "USB light", are you guys talking about computer accessory connections? If so, it doesn`t mean that the lights are computerized or programable, does it?
    No programmability. Just a port on the light that allows you to plug a mini-usb to usb via PC. Great addition since you can basically charge your light anywhere.
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  20. #20
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    Thanks, but...

    ...if that`s the case then it seems to me you`d be kind of in a hard spot because you could only charge it when there was a computer handy. Or can they take regular batteries also?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    Thanks, but...

    ...if that`s the case then it seems to me you`d be kind of in a hard spot because you could only charge it when there was a computer handy. Or can they take regular batteries also?
    Can't take regular batteries; it uses a 18650 Li-Ion battery. If you know you'll be running low on battery, carry a usb cable with you since there are usb wall sockets all over the place.
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  22. #22
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    Hmmm...
    I`ve never seen one of those sockets other than on a computer, but I can`t say as I`ve looked for one. Then again, as long as you`ve got a computer at home and computer access at work, I guess anything else is kind of a moot point- a charge point at each end ought to keep you covered. They don`t need an external charger, do they? I can see how that would be an advantage over NIMHs.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    Hmmm...
    I`ve never seen one of those sockets other than on a computer, but I can`t say as I`ve looked for one. Then again, as long as you`ve got a computer at home and computer access at work, I guess anything else is kind of a moot point- a charge point at each end ought to keep you covered. They don`t need an external charger, do they? I can see how that would be an advantage over NIMHs.
    Most electronics now-a-days use a usb wall charger i.e. apple products, android phones.
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  24. #24
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    Well, I was really concerned with BrianMC's comments on the lack of a reflector lens, which pretty much eliminates most USB lights being offered. I took battery run times into consideration and compared it to the distance of my commute and feel that I should not have to buy batteries more than a couple times a year.

    That being said, I purchased the Blackburn Voyager/Mars click combo which have turned out to be incredibly noticeable in full day light. They have a good reflector for being seen at a decent angle and have a fairly long distance sight.

    The motorists around me are definitly seeing me now, as they are all slowing down and sometimes even being hesitant to pass. As before, they never seemed to slow their speed and came dangerously close to me. I will try to take some drive by video this weekend so you all can evaluate the performance, but from drivers reactions, I'm sold.



  25. #25
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    Look good! Nice informed choice!

    Yeah, I had the very same thing when I kicked up the rear lights and added a flourescent vest. Now they think about me soon enough to make better decisions. Almost always they pass as if I was a car, now. That was rare before. There are still a few morons, incompetents, and maybe sociopaths, but keeping the good hearted folks from a dumb mistake at my expense: priceless.

    On the errand bike where I am nearly vertical the vest shows up like a billboard so I get away with three blinkys at three heights to cover all vehicles and for redundancy in case one quits (I can't tell till I stop). I get more compliance on this slower bike. Maybe it's the vest. More when I am about 3' wide with panniers especially if food and flowers sticking out of some, when I am even slower (huge wind resistance). I guess I seem less of a thing and more of a human? I have wondered about the safety effects of silk flowers or maybe just an obvious (but empty) flower box strapped to the rack?

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