April 8, 2012 in Outdoors

Bikers put bright ‘eyes’ on their tail

Stephen Regenold Special To Outdoors
 

CatEye’s Rapid 5 takes two AAA batteries and runs for 50 hours on pulse mode.
(Full-size photo)

As bike gear goes, illumination is one category where I go all out.

For safety while riding on roads in the evening or at night, I’m going to be that guy you see from a literal mile away.

From behind this means powerful rear-facing, blinking lights. These taillights for bicycles come in a hundred sizes and shapes, most all incorporating a piercing line of tiny red L.E.D. bulbs that catch a driver’s eye.

This spring, I’ve been testing a few new lights, including a funky flasher from Serfas (www.serfas.com) that has a silicone body. The TL-ST model is made to be mounted on a bike’s frame near the rear wheel.

I tested the “clear” color TL-ST light, which appears as actually more like a shade of white. Regardless, the rubbery light hooked easily onto my frame with no tools. A single button ignites its seven L.E.D. bulbs, which run for hours off tiny lithium-ion watch batteries.

At just $20, the TL-ST is a steal. It’s not the brightest you can buy, but its convenience makes it worth the price. You can mount the TL-ST and leave it on a bike all season, its low-profile build essentially unnoticeable as you roll along.

A second taillight I tested from Serfas, called the Shield USB, is billed as the company’s “brightest taillight ever.” It can indeed send out a shocking pulse of light to keep you visible (hopefully) to even the most distracted driver.

I like the Shield’s brightness and small size, and it’s rechargeable via a USB port on a laptop – convenient. But it costs a steep $60 and the included belt-clip attachment is not ideal. With the light attached on my backpack’s webbing strap, which is made to hold a light, the Serfas clip is not tight enough and the light can bounce around.

Finally, the Rapid 5 from CatEye (www.cateye.com) has a high-power center light flanked with smaller 5mm L.E.D.s. It takes two AAA batteries and runs for 50 hours on pulse mode.

The company touts 180-degree visibility for cars approaching from side streets or from behind. At $25, the Rapid 5 is a good enough deal. But it is bigger and bulkier than the Serfas models I tested.

Overall, the lights in this column are all good picks. Indeed, as a product category bike taillights are for the most part solid. Spend $15 or more at a bike shop and you’re bound to get a good light.

Most important, be sure and always use the rear red light when riding near dark or after the sun goes down. For safety, a little bit of flashing visibility can go a very long way.

On the Net: www.gearjunkie.com.


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