Tag Archives: bike lights

Review: Bike USB Rechargeable Lights

Good morning! Daylight savings time might be right around the corner, but night-time visibility has always been a cyclist’s dilemma. One possible solution? Bike USB Rechargeable Lights, which I received for review from Uncommon Goods.

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I have been impressed with these small, sturdy lights They come in sets of two: One front, in white, and one rear, in red. As shown in the photo above, they attach easily to your bike with an attached rubber band, not unlike other small bike lights such as Knog Lights. There is a groove in the top of the light so that the elastic band is held securely. These lights will not fall off your bike, but they’re easy to remove if you live in a city where bike light theft is a concern.

usblight2

 

The bonus with these little lights? No new batteries: just plug the lights into your computer with any mini-USB cable to recharge. (Fellow NOOK owners: your charging cable is now multiuse.) According to the website, you can get 5 hours of use before needing to recharge—I’ve used the lights for at least 20 minutes a day for about 20 days and have not needed to recharge them, so they may actually last slightly longer. Attaining a full charge takes about 2 hours.

A red light indicates that the light is still charging.

A red light indicates that the light is still charging.

Like most bike lights, these have a blinking mode as well as a steady mode. Just click the button on the top to toggle between modes and on/off.

nightlightrear And the front light is bright enough to help you see rather than just be seen.  It rivals my CatEye.

nightlightAt $49 for the pair, these are a bit pricier than Knog, but the convenience of not needing to replace batteries just might be priceless. (Also, shhh, Uncommon Goods often has sales or coupon codes available.) The final verdict: Worth checking out if you need a little extra illumination!

{ These lights were provided by Uncommon Goods for review, but the opinions expressed are my own. }

 

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Lost and Found

I’ve had the worst luck losing stuff lately – and the best luck finding it again.  Last Wednesday, I arrived at work and went to lock my bike as usual.  I reached for my u-lock…

…but instead of hanging on the rack as shown above, the lock was simply gone.  Yeesh!  I reasoned that the lock must have popped off the rack at some point during my commute and  wheeled the bike into my office for safe-keeping.  On my way home that evening, I stopped at J.C. Lind Bike Shop for a new lock.  I needed one ASAP, since I was meeting my friend Sara for dinner and a movie, and I’ve been wanting to upgrade to an Abus chain lock.

While at Jon’s shop, I also picked up a new Cat Eye front blinkie light.  My old Cat Eye also popped off my bike a couple of days ago and shattered.

Am I the only one with stuff popping off my bike left and right?  Maybe I need to secure stuff better, but part of the problem is the awful conditions of Chicago’s streets.  Potholes galore.  Well, would this … thing … pictured below even count as a pothole?

This has been there for years and I can never go around it because traffic’s always whizzing by on my left.  Right next to this monstrosity is where I found my u-lock the next morning.  A kind bicyclist, I assume, moved my lock from the street to the sidewalk – or maybe it really popped that far??

So now I am the proud owner of one bike lock too many, but I’m sure it will come in handy one day.

My u-lock is not the only thing that I lost and found that day.  I also forgot my helmet under my chair at the restaurant where I met my friend for dinner.  I didn’t realize I was missing my helmet until hours later, after a movie and drinks.  By 11 p.m., the restaurant was dark.  But as I unlocked my bike, the owner, who was about to drive away, popped out of his car and said, “You forgot your helmet, right?”   He unlocked the restaurant, went in, and appeared a couple of minutes later with my helmet.  Very kind of him!

Now let’s see if I can go a few weeks without losing anything else.  :-)

 

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Summer Night Rides

Most of my end-of-the-day rides this summer have been in the late evening or night.   There are so many fun events in Chicago right now, I rarely go straight home after work.  Such was the case last night, when my friend Chika and I biked home at 11 pm after a wonderful outdoor concert by the Grant Park Orchestra.

Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park

Frozen Planet with a live orchestra

Chika and her Linus on the Lakefront Trail

Betty Foy sans rear light

Biking later in the evening is wonderfully refreshing.  I avoid evening rush hour: the hottest, most polluted, and busiest time of day.

Unfortunately, my rear light (held on by an old rubber band) fell off while I was going through a big intersection and broke into three pieces. The intersection was too dangerous to attempt retrieval, so now I need to buy a new light and actually attach it properly.  Luckily, my new Po Campo pannier has a huge reflector on the back, but I find a red rear blinkie light to be a necessity, in addition to a reflector.

Does anyone else find themselves biking home later this summer, either to beat the heat or as a result of other activities?  Make sure you have good front and rear lights!

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Review: Mini Monkey Light

For the last two months, I’ve been dazzling Nashville with my Mini Monkey Light M210 from Monkey Electric. And I really mean that—while it’s no Christmas light set, this is the sort of lighting option that draws oohs and ahs from pedestrians and is difficult for motorists to miss. Very important attributes when it starts getting dark at 4:30!

The Monkey Light is easy to install, with a battery case  (3 AA) that rests on top of the wheel’s hub and a small circuit board that fits between the spokes like a baseball card.

 

The on/off button, and the button that allow you to select which pattern you want the light to display, are on the circuit board, as you can see below—they’re labled “Power” and “Theme.”

You may also notice that there’s a “tire” and “hub” indicator, and mine is facing the wrong way.  This did not seem to affect its performance, although I’m sure it alters some of the patterns, so I changed it around after these photos were taken. I attached the Monkey Light to my rear wheel only; I felt like both would have been overkill and I was worried that the battery pack would affect the bike’s performance. That does not seem to have happened,  although my definition of “performance” is doubtless less stringent than most.

Sadly, I can’t seem to get a picture of the light at night to save my life, though I’ve made a few efforts. Whitney finally helped me out and got the best snaps yet. I believe the pattern I have selected is the red “fireball” shown here. I may look like a ghost, but you can definitely tell the lights are BRIGHT.

Luckily, they have a video that better displays what the Monkey Light can do (and has me thinking that maybe I should install it on both wheels after all?).

You can find out more about Monkey Electric and the Monkey Light on their site, or their Kickstarter page. The Monkey Light Mini will be available in February for $49.99, but you can pre-order now. While the price is a tad steep (especially if you want to use the light on both wheels) this light definitely delivers when it comes to visibility (and in two months of use, I haven’t drained the batteries).

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A Story of a Bike Light Giveaway

This is a guest post by Steve Vance of Steven Can Plan.

Last Monday someone on the sidewalk yelled “Happy birthday” to me while I was riding to Bridgeport through University Village (UIC’s south campus). It was my birthday. I turned around to identify the shouting person. Joe was a classmate and now I most often see him at a local bike shop or playing bike polo. We went inside the store and chatted for awhile.

The bicycle is an extremely social tool. While it helps me get to the places I need to go, it does so in such a way that fosters community and interaction. As I ride, I’m exposed to the whims of the street: the noises, the chatter, the honks, the people, and the people I know. But it also helps me get to know new people.

I participated in another bike light distribution with Active Transportation Alliance on November 17, 2010. I photographed a previous distribution in Wicker Park a week earlier. This time around, at the corner of Halsted and Roosevelt at the UIC campus, I took a more direct role by flagging people riding bikes without lights to pull over and stop. I would then attach a brand new headlight to their bicycle, courtesy of customers of Groupon and the law office of Jim Freeman. During the two minutes I had their undivided attention, I told them about the state law requiring a front light and the role of Active Transportation Alliance in the city and suburbs.

This time I wanted to record more information about all the people I helped and talked to. I kept a little note card in my pocket and recorded the revealed reasons why the person didn’t have a headlight, how many men and women I helped (I only recorded two categories), and some select quotes.

I think six people refused my offer for a free headlight – this is because they couldn’t hear me (several wore headphones), didn’t understand our intentions, or both. Also confused, a man driving a car said, “You little bastard with your bikes,” but I won’t let anyone distract me.

Genaro gives a free headlight to someone without it

Genaro installs a headlight to someone riding on Halsted Street in University Village.

Of all the people I stopped, I identified 21 men and 11 women (32 total). Four people said they lost their lights or had them stolen and hadn’t yet replaced the lights. One person forgot their lights. 27 of the 32 people riding bikes didn’t know it was state law to ride a bike with a headlight on at night. Here’s what some riders had to say:

“No one told me that!” I suspect this is an extremely common explanation. This is definitely an opportunity for local bike shops to educate their customers, but there are other places people can get this information, like resident advisers at dorms, churches, and workplaces. The Active Transportation Alliance fights tirelessly to instill basic information into the minds of people riding bikes around town.

One person I was talking to hadn’t heard of the Active Transportation Alliance and after I explained to him what the organization does, he said, “My friends and I want to start our own group.”

Someone on foot asked me, “How long are you going to be here? I want my friend to get one.” This guy came back with his friend and they both got free headlights.

Speaking of the bicycling leading me to meetings with people I know, three friends were walking by and said hello. I had met one of them, Andrew, at the same spot, in front of the UIC Skyspace as we both raced in an October 2006 scavenger hunt.

Blues unite!

Walk under the Skyspace to get a direct and undistracted view of the sky and space.

Great story!  Read more from Steve at his excellent blog about urban planning, cities and transportation, Steven Can Plan.

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