Monday, August 6, 2012

Planet Bike Superflash Long-Term Test Review: PB Gets Everything Right

Planet Bike Superflash
I've had the Planet Bike Superflash blinking taillight for over 5 years. It still works. If you need more convincing that this is the best bike taillight available, keep reading and I'll tell you why I wouldn't want any other light between a car and my bicycle.

planet bike superflash

Why I like this light:
It's a space-saver. The dimensions are about 2.75" tall x 1.5" across x 1.5 inches deep. You can carry it in your bag when your bike is locked up. And trust me, you'll want to because this light is worth its weight in gold, but it just snaps in and out of the mounting bracket, so I always worried that someone would steal it.

Also, the mounting system (picture above) is absolutely rock solid. I've ridden down countless curbs and bounced my way across the railroad tracks on University Avenue in Madison, WI more times than I can count, and it's always still back there when I get home.
Here's the light detached. You can see it also has a clip so you could attach it to your bag. But since it's an LED, the light output to the side is tiny compared to the light output to the back, so I recommend only mounting this to your bike frame. That way cars are always getting 100% of the LED in line with the bike frame, instead of 5% when your bag slips to the side going uphill or if you are leaning through a turn. For the same reason, I wouldn't put this light on a helmet, although it's small enough to do so. I guess if I was going for a jog the clip could be handy, but it's first and foremost a bike light.

In fact, that's about the only con I can think of with this light. Since it uses a directional LED light, it doesn't shed much light or flash very brightly when viewed from the side. Of course, it's marketed as a taillight, not a side light. And that same technology means that none of the light energy is wasted by being sent to the side. Just be sure your wheel reflectors (or better yet, reflective rims or sidewalls) are clean and you'll be fine.

It's super light. Most urban commuters don't care what their gear weighs anyway but Planet Bike says it weighs only 75 grams with batteries. Trust me, you won't even know it's back there.

It's water resistant and weatherproof. I used this light on my bicycle during thunderstorms and snowstorms in Madison, WI for three years. I'm not on campus anymore, but during that time I beat my bicycle pretty hard and a lot my other components and gear failed, but not this light. It just keeps on blinking!

It has amazing battery life. I've never changed the batteries since I bought it, which is more than 5 years of use. Just the other week I left this thing on blinky mode all day long at work. That's more than 8 hours straight. When I came out it was still blinking away and it's still bright enough to hurt your retinas if viewed head on. Planet Bike rates this thing at 100 hours of runtime and I have no reason to doubt that claim.

And finally, the most important point: the Planet Bike Superflash light is flippin' bright. Don't turn it on and look right at it because you will see spots for a few minutes. Apparently the main light is a 2-watt LED. When you have it in blinky mode there are also two smaller kicker LEDs that are plenty bright.

My Planet Bike Superflash light has 2 options: the main LED can be constantly on, or there is an eye-popping blinky mode that flashes the 2-watt LED every few seconds and the two smaller kicker LEDs in between. I assume you might want to use the constant on mode if you were riding in a group and didn't want to totally blind the cyclist behind you, but for all other purposes you might as well use the blinky mode.

I noticed a dramatic difference in the way cars reacted with this thing mounted high on my seatpost - they slow down and give you space. It's impossible to ignore this little light. It's so bright that it attracts attention during the day. If you're planning to do any kind of city riding near dark or after dark, you need to go out and get this light. It will save your butt from those nasty close calls!

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