Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sportease Cycling lights Review

Last year, Stephen Dionne of Sportease World (Ontario Canada) contacted me (as ride chair of the local bike club) about some tail lights his company had made but couldn't sell for some reason. We never did connect on that, but I heard from him again a week ago regarding some new products. I was offered a good discount to buy and try their new headlight and they tossed in a free tail light to seal the deal. I bit on the bait and the items were promptly delivered to my door. My review of each follows. Sportease is a small company founded by Stephen and his wife. He describes himself as an avid cyclist who wrecked on a ride and broke ribs and collarbone because he couldn't see a pothole at night and who wanted a better light for less $ than what he found in the current marketplace. Both items reviewed below have a definite quality feel to them.

1.) The Mini Beacon Headlight. This small unit is impressive. It attaches via a rubber O-ring. The box should contain 4 of different sizes of them (mine had none, but I found one to use in my excess bike parts bin. They are mailing me the ones missing) to fit various sizes of tubing. The unit has a solid strong feel to it. It is made of machined aluminum. It comes in a durable zippered box that fits a plug in recharger, a USB recharger and a helmet mount. The supplied rechargeable battery is a lithium model. It comes in a fabric case that has velcro so you mount it on the bike by wrapping the case around the bike tube of choice and then securing with the velcro. This is okay, but the case cannot be tightly attached this way and the battery slides down towards a bottle cage when put on the seat tube. The battery holder needs a shaped piece of rubber so it can grip the tube, IMO. I took the battery out of the fabric case and tested it bare, securing it with a Dinotte (another brand of bike lite) battery velcro strap.  That was much better. The battery comes with a long cable. This allows you to place it anywhere you want and still reach the headlight mounted on a handlebar or you can wear the battery on your belt and mount the light to your helmet. I had mine on the seat tube and wound the cable around my top tube a few turns which worked perfectly. It did not get in the way of my usual frame pump under the top tube also.
    The light has 4 modes. High (1000 lumens), Medium (600 lumens) and low (300 Lumens) steady beams plus a flash mode (1000 lumens). Battery life is 6 hrs on high and longer on each of the other options. The power button illuminates blue for easy location at night and to tell you that you have enough battery. It turns red when your charge gets low (30% of charge) which is your warning that you have only 30 minutes left of charge. In fact you can do a battery test to see how much you have.  Simple button pushes cycle you through all the choices. On a day light ride yesterday, my faster buddies got way out ahead me. They said that looking back, they couldn't see me, but they sure could see the light flashing. At night, on a dark street, the medium setting lights up a full lane width of road, while high lights up the entire road ahead. Really lights it up. Low would only be useful for urban riding with good street lighting or if riding in a group where many lights provide plenty of illumination.
     The light unit stayed in place on the handlebars despite bumps in the road. The battery pack slid down and stopped at the water bottle cage, but did not get in the way of pedaling at any time. On balance, this is a seriously good light at a reasonable price. The lithium battery keeps the weight low too. The storage box is better than expected. One nit pick; The very skimpy instruction sheet has tiny print if your eyes are old like mine. Overall, a recommended buy. Info here:  (buy it on Amazon)

2.) The Flare Tail light. This ingenious little light is not bright enough for daytime use but is fine for hours of darkness. It has a spring loaded gripper and you squeeze the two legs to open the gripper which then grabs your seat post or other tube when you let go. It has an internal USB charged lithium battery and comes with a charging cable, although it works with the cables that come with many phones and other devices. The two legs each have multiple LEDs and there are two settings of steady light and a flash mode. I show only a handful of seatpost and that is filled by an underseat saddle bag, so I attached mine to the seat tube. Because seat tubes are angled, the light faces slightly down. This did not diminish the night time visibility much. Also, there seemed little difference at a distance in how bright the two settings appear, so I use the low setting for longer battery life. The gripper is rubber lined and will not mar the bike tube. This light has no reflector area, so you still need a red rear reflector to be legal on the roadway at night. Some tailights have both a light and a reflector (which  has to meet state requirements. In Alabama: "red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the department which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector."  Code 32-5A-265)  This light is visible for 1/4 mile or more behind the bike. When your battery gets low, the unit blinks rapidly to tell you that you are at 20% of charge.
Package Data:
Weight is 50 grams
60 lumens on High steady.
30 lumens on Mid steady.
60 lumens of flash.
6+ hours in High steady
19+ hours in Mid steady
12 hours in Flash

 The best feature of this light is how easy it is to remove it and put on another bike. It would be better with an angled construction that puts the light directly back, but it is still quite visible. 19 hr is a great run time on a usable brightness. Overall, I think this light would be a great buy at a lower price, and is an okay buy at the current price. Something to jump on if on sale or with a coupon. As an aside, with the mini beacon on the bike, this light fits in the beacon's storage case along with the accessories when not in use.

Info Here:

Let me know any questions. I will be using my pair of lights on my week night rides all Summer.


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