I spend a great deal of time cycling on the road, even more than off-road these days. Things change.
We can be all stealth mode with our drab clothing and absense of safety lights when riding off-road, where the only traffic would be another trail user. But on the streets, highways, and canyon roads, being seen is crucial to staying alive.
I dress in brighter, higher contrast clothing, much more so than anything I would typically wear for a mountain bike ride. And I always ride with a daytime running light, both front and rear.
In other words, a blinky.
What used to be a feeble, barely there flashing light when we were in the old days of incandescent bulbs, now high powered LEDs and lithion ion batteries have given us amazingly bright and compact lights that go a long ways toward getting the attention of any motor vehicle driver you would be sharing the road with.
The light weight and small presence makes these a no-brainer, must-have product for a commuter or roadie or even a gravel rider making the circuit. I see groups of riders on the road in Southern California all the time with no safety lights between them all…not one. Great. Then they make it worse by dressing in black. Perfect. Say hello to the invisible man out on a bike ride.
So over the past year I have been using two sets of daytime running lights. One set is from Blackburn and the other from Bontrager. I never ride without one or the other if my wheels are rolling over a public road.
Available in a set of F/R like in the link above or as individual lights, at $65.00 for the set, these have become two of my favorites. I always run the front on strobe mode. If I am going out for a MTB night ride or a gravel ride and I am running a serious riding light for a headlight, I still run the taillight on a solid, non-flashy mode. I have read that drunk drivers tend to drive towards a flashing light like a moth to the flame, but less so to a solid light. Also, at night, a rear strobe affect is very annoying to fellow bike riders. By the way, I notice that there is now a Central 50 rear light for sale, upping the Lumens ante.
Central 100 Front Light
- Extruded alloy shell
- Lumens: High 100, Low 50, Strobe 50
- Runtime: High 3.2hrs, Low 7hrs, Strobe 21hrs
Central 20 Rear Light
- 2 super bright LEDs push out a 20 lumen safety beam
- Large lens power button is easy to turn on/off while pedaling or wearing gloves
- Translucent bezel amplifies side visibility
- Flexible silicone mount fits all seatpost diameters and shapes
- The light’s thin profile easily stows small in your pocket
- Versatile wire clip attachment also mounts directly to shoulder straps, handlebar bags, panniers, etc.
- Extruded alloy shell
- Lumens: High 20, Flash 20, Strobe 20 lms
- Runtime: High 25hrs, Flash 42hrs, Strobe 76hrs
$65.99 for the set or $34.99 for the Central 20 light and the same for the Central 100 light, both sold individually.
- The front light sits parallel to the handlebars and mounts easily with the rubber strap. There is a wire clip mount built in for a seat bag or backpack or whatever attachment as well. The rubber mount can be separated from the light to use the wire clip only. The rear light sits vertically on the seat post as long as you have enough post sticking out and your tool bag is not cramping your style.
- The power-on switch and the modes all cycle through with one motion by basically pressing firmly in the center of the lens. Even with heavy gloves this is very doable.
- They are bright enough to be worth having and even without a focused reflector, the three LEDs in front and the 2 in rear are intense enough to get your attention.
- Everlasting Gobstopper…these things last and last and last and… Seriously, these, at least on strobe/flashy mode, are the longest lasting running lights on a single charge that I have ever had, at least in anything this small and light. Blackburn says 21 hours for the front strobe and 76 hours for the rear strobe. I have not verified that, but I have taken these on multiple rides in between charging and never had them go dead on me. Absolutely fabulous. I want a solid 8 hours of run time on flashy mode. Why 8 hours? That is long enough to do a full day ride, a club century + breaks, or enough for two good rides if you forget to charge them up after the last use.
- They feel solid to the touch, not like a cheap toy. I have not had them in the rain, so that is an unknown, but the charging port looks sealed well enough, something the older Bontrager Flare rear light had an issue with.
- The front light is bright enough to use for slow riding at night, say if you get caught out after dark, but the unfocused nature of the beam means that the 100L rating on high tends to go all directions.
The Less Than Good:
- Not much really. The rear light does not account for the angle of the seatpost, so it will be pointing slightly downwards when viewed from the seat of a vehicle. LEDs are very directional, so if you are not seeing them with a direct line of sight, they will appear much less intense. Most other tailights I have used account for this by angling the rear mount so it sits level when mounted to the angled seat post.
- Sometimes the power/mode switch can be finicky to press, taking two hands, one to push with a finger tip and the other to hold the light steady. This is not important, except if you take off for a ride and forget to activate the lights, then want to do so while riding. That might be darn near impossible.
- Cannot really be considered a riding light as far as you seeing where you are going…its a ‘be seen’ thing.
- Real Estate issues: Might get in the way of a Garmin mount or other bar clutter and moving it away from the stem could put the rubber strap at your bar tape/cable exit where it would be a tough job to mount it.
The Blackburn Central Lights are keepers and are what I reach for when the day will be a long one.
Bontrager Ion 100 R and Flare R City
If there is a company all over the idea of being visible when you ride, it is Bontrager, what with their bright and reflective clothing options and the focus on Daytime (and night time) Lighting. Along with the lights, I was sent a catalog with pages of information showing what studies have revealed about being visible. It was impressive and informative, and shows a more than passing interest in the subject. Thanks, Trek.
My wife have been using a set of the Ion 700/Flare R for her daytime as well as any night riders we do and they have been solid, except for the one rear Flare that we killed in a rainy ride. Seems that the charging cover on that generation of lights was iffy as far as sealing, so unless you fussed with it and had the tiny, rubber hatch all buttoned down, it would catch the spray off the rear tire and *ffffftttt*…muerte! The new version are improved, or so I have been told.
As with the Blackburn set, this is a pair of front and rear lights designed to get someone’s attention rather than to see with. When I first opened the package, I was struck by how small they were. Tidy, like a big sugar cube. I also noted the built in reflector for the LED and a well sealed charging port. A rubber strap serves for the attachment duty.
The Ion 100 R is daytime visible and designed for the city. A wide beam spread, focused optics, and an interruptive flash pattern make it visible from over 500m during the day. A built in ambient light sensor provides auto-brightness control, and the included Quick Connect bracket offers simple removal for recharging via the included USB cable.
- Focused optics provide be seen safety with a broad but powerful light
- Integrated light sensor auto-adjusts brightness in flash mode
- 100 Lumens via high-power CREE LED
- Ideal for handlebar or on bike mount
- 100LM-1.5hrs, 50LM-3hrs,5LM-16hrs, Night Flash-7hrs, Day Flash-5hrs
- Includes quick connect bracket and micro USB charging cable
- Blendr compatible, secure bar mount available
- $39.99 MSRP
The Flare R City tail light is daytime visible and designed for the city. A wide beam spread, focused optics, and an interruptive flash pattern make it visible from over 400m during the day. A built in ambient light sensor provides auto-brightness control, and the included Quick Connect bracket offers simple removal for recharging via the included USB cable.
35 Lumens of power and the wide visibility angle of the Flare R City tail light make you the biggest distraction on the city streets, day or night.
- 35 Lumens provide visibility from over 400m day or night
- Wide visibility angle intended for city use
- Two day-time visibility modes and two night modes
- Day flash 35LM-8hrs, night flash 35LM-16hrs, day steady 20LM-3hrs, night steady 2LM-20hrs
- Integrated light sensor for auto-brightness control
- Battery save mode at 5% life helps ensure a safe ride home with depleted battery
- Quick connect bracket with 16 degree offset compensates for seatpost angle
- Includes Quick connect bracket and micro USB charging cable
- $39.95 MSRP
- Very small form factor and easy mounting make them unobtrusive and light weight. These are the blinkys for a rider who wants to look like he does not use a blinky.
- The power button is easy to use, even when riding.
- The rear version has an angled mount so the beam points level back down the road to a driver’s eyes.
- Bright, bright, bright. Not as intense as the bigger Flare R, the rear light it still is an attention getter and the front can be seen for a long ways ahead of you.
The Less Than Good:
- The run time is just OK. They spec 5 hours on the higher level flash mode and I agree with that. I have done from a fresh charge to a red status light in around 3 hours of riding although I finished the 4 hour ride with the light still working.
- Like the Blackburns, you can see down a dark path with this on high, but you will not be going fast at the time.
- Not very visible from the side.
Note: The products shown here were provided at no cost to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.