Pretty much every urban cyclist needs bike lights, but almost every urban cyclist’s needs are a little different. Some need extreme brightness, others need long battery life. And different bikes require different mounting options. This keeps the light manufacturers busy, and arguably, happy. Take for example, our friends at Ilumenox. The Taiwanese light manufacturer already has an array of lights, not to mention it’s offerings under the brand names S-Sun and Skully.
The Slash USB is a decidedly modern looking light, with five SMD LED bulbs, numerous beveled edges and a narrow profile that makes it look like it belongs on a fast bike. And that’s no accident, as the Slash USB is designed to fit aero seatposts, carbon fork blades and any number of shapes. But it’s equally at home on a round seatpost, mountain bike handlebars or even strapped to a bike rack. With three different sized elastomers and an optional rubber mounting pad provided, the mounting system is extremely versatile.
The Slash USB is reasonably bright with good runtimes (up to 12 hours for the white light, 9.5 max for the red light). As a headlight, it’s more for being seen than for seeing, though it will get you home if the streetlights go out. As a taillight it’s excellent, providing more than 180° of visibility. Unfortunately, the headlight is also visible from more than 180°, which means it might cast light back towards the rider depending on how it’s mounted.
Both the red and white lights are available in five different body colors and retail for $35.29. Check out www.ilumenox.com
A certain part of me still hangs on to that childhood ideal. While I’m certainly older and wiser, and admit that fenders serve a very useful purpose, I generally prefer not to have them on my bike. Enter the removable fender. There have been several on the market for many years, but in recent years a few companies have introduced easily removable, foldable models. Of those, WOHO’s Flying Fender is among the best. It’s also the only model (to my knowledge) that claims to be made from non-toxic, biodegradable material, presumably a treated polyethylene.
Like most fenders of this sort, it’s shipped flat, cut, scored and perforated. You pop it out of the excess plastic, fold it according to the directions and use the hook and loop fastener strap to mount the fender. The Flying Fender is not only made for the rear wheel, it can be mounted to the downtube (hence the inclusion of a second strap).
Speaking of the straps, one side is coated with a non-slip material, This seems to be the key in keeping the Flying Fender from flying off to the side while you ride. I’m not saying it can’t be moved, but it stays in place remarkably well. When the fender is not in use, it can be simply rolled up and stowed away, or curled around any convenient tube on your bike.
The Flying Fender comes in two sizes, M for road (70 x 10.5 cm, 45 g) and L for mountain (70 x 14.5 cm, 50 g). Both models come with two straps, and either size retails for $6. And they come in at least 10 different colors. Check out www.wohobike.com
The Commuter Work Shirt comes from Levi’s Fall 2013 collection. Although it’s no longer on the Levi’s website, online retailers still a handful of these in circulation, and I imagine the same goes for a few brick and mortar outlets, as well.
Let’s get down to brass tacks—this is a sharp looking shirt. Long sleeves, hidden buttons, zippered chest pocket and technical fabric that doesn’t look like technical fabric. Said fabric is 66% cotton, 31% polyester and 3% spandex with 3XDRY treatment. It’s water-repellent, moisture-wicking and breathable.
The cut of the shirt did not exactly suit me—it’s a lot better suited for people who are truly fit. People like my neighbor Sam (pictured) who’s a certified athletic trainer, road racer and genuinely good guy. After I gave the shirt a few rides, Sam put it through the wringer and came back with positive comments, including that he was surprised at how it didn’t encumber his movements or position on the bike (Levi’s touts gusseted shoulders for improved mobility) and that the fabric felt very appropriate for mild weather (hence its origin in the Fall collection).
The Commuter Work Shirt retails for $88. Check out www.levi.com
The Zoic Downtown Jacket is a simple, stylish softshell that’s also reasonably priced and very well thought-out.
Like much of my favorite cycling apparel, it only comes in black. The Downtown Jacket has some subtle blue accents as well as a small amount of reflective trim for safety’s sake. The soft, stretchable fabric looks good and feels good. It’s 86% polyester and 14% spandex with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating.
I’m always surprised at how well modern DWR softshells repel water, and this one is no exception. But keep in mind, you have to treat them right to maintain their performance. That means limit their trips to the washing machine (Zoic claims their treatment is good for 30 washes) and when you do wash it, it’s probably a good idea to use a DWR specific detergent such as those offered by Nikwax.
The jacket features a rather casual cut, which combined with the subtle branding makes it a nice choice for those of us who aren’t racer-boy slim. It’s also good for uurban riders who don’t like to stand out in a crowd. It features four zippered pockets, two for your hands, one on the lower back and one on the arm for your MP3 player (with internal cable routing). And while it is a relaxed fit jacket, it still offers a traditional drop tail, as well as an adjustable waistband.
The Downtown Jacket retails for $115 and comes in sizes M-XL. Check out www.zoic.com
If memory serves correct, my very first blinky light was a Cateye. The classic design used two AAA batteries and required a coin to pry the two halves apart from the yellow rubber gasket. That thing cost less than $10 and lasted for years until I either lost it or gave it away.
To say the blinky light market has evolved would be a gross understatement, but Cateye seems to have kept up with the times. The Rapid X features a state of the art COB LED module and a 200mAh USB-rechargable lithium ion battery. It weighs just 23g, which should make it an appealing option for road racers and weight weenies alike.
One of the best features of the Rapid X is the side visibility. It’s nearly as bright from 90° as it is from the back. Interestingly, the light isn’t overpoweringly bright. It seems that Cateye put more value on runtime than lumens, as the light is claimed to run for up to 30 hours in flashing mode. Regardless of which of the six modes you are in, when the battery gets low, the unit automatically switches to flashing mode, ensuring you an hour of burn time. Back home on the range, you’ll need just two hours to completely charge the battery.
Construction seems solid, and the tool-free elastomer-based mounting system is as simple as can be. While I used to be loathe to trust a rubber band to hold my light on, I’ve grown more confident as light manufacturers have obviously stepped up their game. One of the two provided mounting straps will allow you to mount it to 12–32mm tubes.
At first I was going to complain that the rubber back panel comes off fairly easily, which could cause you to lose parts of the unit when charging or transporting it, but then I realized that won’t be a problem if you leave the mounting strap attached.
The Rapid X retails for about $40. Check out www.cateye.com
I don’t know of too many cycling gloves that are truly designed with the urban cyclist in mind, so WOHO’s Ninja Ninja gloves may be the first of their kind. They’re simple, functional and good looking.
Personally, I like simple gloves, especially for city riding. I don’t like tons of logos, nor do I need rubberized “armor” on the fingers. I just want something that keeps my sweaty hands from slipping off of the grips. And unless it’s below freezing, I prefer lightweight, breathable gloves. These fit the bill.
The Ninja Ninja gloves feature smooth, breathable Lycra shell with a synthetic suede palm material. The palms feature a non-slip silicone coating and SBR foam padding which feels thin until you grab the handlebar, then it feels quite substantial. Overall they’re a very comfortable pair of gloves. I also like that these don’t use a Velcro wrist closure—unless it’s a compression strap for wrist support, it just seems unnecessary.
One of the major features of the long-fingered Ninja Ninja gloves is the use of touch-screen friendly fabric on the index finger tip and thumb. In fact, this may be my favorite feature. It’s a simple convenience that’s probably going to be ubiquitous in a few years. Another interesting feature that’s only on the fingerless version are small pull tabs on the middle two fingers. This seems a little less necessary to me, personally, but might make some people quite happy.
I do feel that the Ninja Ninja gloves run a tiny bit small. So you’ll want to double check with WOHO’s size chart, and perhaps order one size up if you feel that you’ve got rather large hands.
The Ninja Ninja Deluxe gloves come in a variety of solid colors, all accented with color-matched elastic bands with a subtle silicon logo. The long fingered gloves retail for $31 ($28 for short fingered) and come in sizes S-XXL. Check out www.wohobike.com
The Lightning Bug 100 USB is NiteRider’s idea of a high-quality light for the practical commuter. Meaning that it’s affordable yet powerful. It features trickle down technology from their Lumina and Mako lines, yet retains the simplicity of the original Lightning Bug.
As the name implies, it features a 100 lumen maximum output. There’s also a 50 lumen mode, as well as a flashing mode intended for daylight safety. The 800mA battery charges in 2.5 hours via USB, and provides an equal amount of runtime on high (6 hours on low, 26 flashing).
The simple, tool-free silicone mounting system is convenient and easy to use, even with gloves on. You don’t need to stretch the band terribly tight to make the light stay put, which bodes well for it not snapping after extended use. The whole unit feels like its built to last, which is generally the case with all NiteRider products.
The beam pattern is pretty soft and wide, which I personally appreciate. Of course in this day and age of 1000 lumen commuting lights, the humble Lightning Bug isn’t nearly the brightest light on the road. But many of us remember when 100 lumens was considered super bright, and it’s still enough to get you around town safely at night.
The Lightning Bug 100 USB retails for $39. Check out www.niterider.com
Lights are a vital part of even the sometimes-night rider, let alone the daily commuter or lifestyle rider. The past few years have seen some incredible jumps in lighting technology, ushering in a new era of compact high powered rechargeable units to safely extend your ride time well after dark. The days of questionable be seen button cell powered blinkies are behind us, it’s time to light up the road ahead. Trelock is one of the oldest cycling accessory brands in Germany (the company began in 1854) and the LS 950 is their top of the line commuter headlight.
The Trelock LS 950 is what I would term a super-commuter light, with enough output for riding in complete darkness and battery power for up to 45 hours of riding between recharges. That’s a week’s worth of 2 hour morning and evening commutes without a recharge, in the lowest power mode at least. Trelock sacrifices absolute maximum power and minimum weight for long runtimes, optimizing light output through reflector technology rather than with higher and higher powered LEDs. In much of Western Europe transportation cycling is far more ingrained in the culture than it is in the United States, and Germany is no exception with commuter paths crisscrossing the cities and bicycle specific law in many cases far ahead of our own. One such regulation is the StVZO laws that regulate all lighting used in public traffic, including bicycle lighting. StVZO laws are at the heart of the LS 950 reflector, and that reflector is the basis for the entire light.
The reflector and lens in the LS 950 squeezes the most light possible from the LED inside. Placed next to other lights with 1W LEDs and it can be surprising to find out that the power consumption of each is the same — the LS 950 has a bright beam focussed on the road surface ahead rather than a floodlight effect. The aforementioned StVZO laws require that lights not blind other road users, forcing manufacturers to engineer reflectors that direct light down and onto the roadway rather than straight forward. Imagine cars with bare bulbs rather than headlights focussed on the road and such light laws start making perfect sense. The lens of the LS 950 isn’t perfect, there are some stray beams refracted through the front surface of the lens heading off to the sides, but the bulk of the light is focussed into a box, lighting up what is ahead without “wasting” much light on places your wheels will never touch. It’s really an impressive amount of light, one hard to justly photograph.
The quoted output ranges from 6 – 70 lux, a unit that measured focussed light rather than raw light output, with five power levels to choose from. Along with multiple levels, the LS 950 has an excellent power meter displaying hours and minutes remaining in a given light level. With the larger than usual 4300 mAh lithium ion battery and excellent power management the light offers unparalleled runtimes, 6 – 45 hours. This is the light I would choose for a multi-day tour where recharging isn’t a solid option. The plus and minus light buttons are easy to use even with winter gloves, requiring an extended button push for on/off with a tap to move between levels. With a subtle backlight so you can always see the remaining battery life this is easily the best light meter I’ve ever used, with no glitches or jumps in the estimated time remaining that I’ve noticed. If only the buttons were also backlit, that would make it much easier to adjust light levels throughout the ride.
The LS 950 body is plastic and while sturdy feeling, perhaps not what I’d look for in a $230 light unit given the build quality of some of the competitors. It is not rated as waterproof but passes the faucet test of not shorting out under running water, I’d just make sure the plug for the USB recharging port is securely in place before heading into the eye of the storm. The bar mount uses a cam and strap similar to some seatpost fender mounts, fitting most any bar out there with enough side to side adjustment to keep the light straight ahead no matter the backsweep of the bars. I did find that the strap mount could slip forward over rough patches of trail — if you experience the same there is a more conventional bolt-on mount available. The same battery that gives the light the amazing runtimes unfortunately also gives the LS 950 some pudge around the middle, making the light a tight fit on some of my handlebar configurations — something to consider if you you run narrow bars or have a dashboard of accessories on your bike.
Overall the Trelock LS 950 is a pretty great commuter light, especially for those with plans to ride deep into the night a couple of evenings in a row. It is really all about the runtime and power management of this light, and the lens that maximizes the light output in just the right place. At 214 grams the LS 950 isn’t a lightweight addition to your race bike, but neither is it meant to be. For people replacing significant car trips the $230 retail price is easier to swallow than for sometimes riders, but this is a light that really appeals to people looking to maximize runtime and minimize recharging. If that is your goal, this might be your light. See more and order direct at the US distributor, Cantitoe Road.