Two Rear LED Bike Lights - A joint CPF Review

jch79

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In the quest for the ultimate rear LED bike light, fellow CPF'r greenLED & I both bought the Planet Bike Super Flash (link), boasted as "The Best Tail Light on the Planet", and I bought the CatEye TL-LD1000 (link) - CatEye's flagship rear LED light, saying that it's "Setting new standards in safety."

Review contains different text and photos by both greenLED and myself. So when you see the word "I", that refers to either ME or GREEN!

First, we'll do the Super Flash, and then the TL-LD1000, and then do some beamshots, and then some weight & lux comparisons.

_MG_9599sm.jpg


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Planet Bike Super Flash

mg9593sm9un.jpg


It's a small light, that runs on two AAA batteries - NiMH are good to go as well. I've been running mine on a pair of Eneloops since January, and haven't changed them yet... and that's biking every single day.

Here's the light compared to an AAA cell:
planetbikesuperflashvsaei5.jpg


The light runs on [SIZE=-1]Nichia's half-watt "Blaze" LED - something I'm not too familiar with, but :shrug: as you'll see, it's no slouch! This may be even possible to mod with a brighter LED.. ?

[/SIZE]Here's a side shot for y'all to see how the optic rides directly on top of the LED. Incidentally, that is not an NX-05 optic either. The curvature on the top reminds me of an NX-01 or a FraenLP, but the optic on the Superflash doesn't have the indexing tabs present in other optics I'm familiar with.

planetbikesuperflashoptln9.jpg


I'm a bit hesitant to open the Superflash, as the dome is sealed onto its base, and I'd probably have to break the whole thing to dissect the components. If it breaks eventually, then I'll dig into the components, etc.

The light basically has two modes: an alternating flash mode, and a constant-on "steady" mode. I prefer the flashing - it's much more attention-getting, which you need as a commuter.

The flash mode alternates between the two (5mm?) LED's on the bottom quickly blinking about 4 times, and the 1/2 watt optic LED on the top pulsing once - it's a great pattern that saves battery life without sacrificing visibilty. The cycle lasts about .75 seconds, giving you about 80 cycles a minute.

The "steady" mode just leaves the main 1/2 watt LED on - if you don't want to disturb the environment you're in, this is the mode you'd want to choose... but I really don't see why you'd want to have it in this mode.

Here is a shot of "steady" mode:

mg9589sm5rr.jpg

1/200 @ 5.0, ISO 200

You can see that the rest of the translucent red plastic picks up and reflects/enhances the beam from the 1/2 watt LED.

The runtime of the SuperFlash is estimated at 100 hours - which well know that means it's direct drive, and slowly dims from start to end. I have a hard time buying the 100 hour claim, however I can say that mine is still going strong, after 4 months of daily use. :shrug:

The light also has a great mounting system, which allows you to either mount it on the bracket, or to clip it on your belt or bag if you don't have the bracket installed.

FWIW, I bought mine for $18 from Bike Nashbar.

___________

CatEye TL-LD1000

_MG_9602sm.jpg


This is a large light that gives the user many differerent modes of operation. There are two buttons that each operate one row of LED's - as each row of LED's has 4 different combinations - blinking, constant on, chasing, and random, you have to click once to get through each mode. So in order to go through one cycle, you're clicking each button 5 times. If this was more simple, like making it one button and slightly less options (there are 16 as it is, with both lights on), I would be much happier with it. So at the expense of having many user modes, you have to really go through a lot to get to what you might want.

The light runs on 2xAA batteries - NiMH should be good to go, although I haven't tried them on it... actually, I've not even put it on my bike yet! (You'll see why below)

All 10 LED's on the light seem to be 5mm LED's, however I'm no expert, and they could be larger. :shrug: They are all behind Cateye's "OptiCube" technology - a fancy word for "optics" :) - as you can see in the picture.

Here's a shot of the light straight-on, with all the LED's on:
mg9588sm4zn.jpg

1/200 @ 5.0, ISO 200

Note that this was taken with the same camera settings as the Super Flash - you tell me which one shows up better!?!

The light offers excellent side visibility, as it has a side-mounted LED on the right and left sides, which the Super Flash can't come close to matching. IMHO, the light is a bit bulky & heavy - not ideal for your average commuter.

CatEye makes the claims for runtime as 50 hours for constant-on, and flashing modes to 100 hours (it doesn't go into which flashling mode). I don't have the patience to do a 50 or 100 hour runtime test, but it's probably safe to assume that this is also direct drive, and dims over time.

FWIW, I bought mine for $30 from Nashbar.

___________

COMPARISONS


Beamshot taken at 6ft. away from wall, at ~35mm equivalent focal length.

mg9580sm1it.jpg

1/6sec at 4.5, ISO 200

The Super Flash shows the advantage of using a larger LED - as it's sole 1/2 watt LED outshines the CatEye's six 5mm LED's. That said, I'm not sure which is more efficient between the two. :shrug:

Lux measurements (taken at constant-on, at brightest spot):
Super Flash = 96 Lux
TL-LD1000 Front = 73 Lux
TL-LD1000 Button Side = 34 Lux
TL-LD1000 Battery Side = 42 Lux

Weight, with batteries (no bracket):
Super Flash = 1.9 oz
TL-LD1000 Front = 3.5 oz

___________

CONCLUSION:

For 2/3 the price, you get a smaller, lighter, brighter, more versitile light with the Super Flash. It may not have as much side visibility as the TL-LD1000, but it's clear plastic casing gives it enough for my needs. The TL-LD1000 represents CatEye's "best" rear Red LED light, and really missed the mark, as it's excessively large, heavy, and a pain to run through the cycles.

So, all you CPF cyclists out there, go pick up the Planet Bike Super Flash, and consider donating the money you saved to become a CPF supporter! :)


Thanks,
john & Migs
 
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greenLED

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Jch79, that's an awesome review! You :rock: Thanks for putting all the pieces together, rewriting, and posting. Otherwise it would've sat on my lap forever and a half. It was a pleasure working with you in this project.

I have no idea what a Nichia "Blaze" is; I thought it was a Jupiter. I'm glad you figured out what it was.


I am extremely happy with my SuperFlash. A little story for y'all: one morning VWTim caught up with me while I was stopped at an intersection and pointed out he could see my SuperFlash from well over a block away... and this is in a clear, sunny morning, right around 9am with pedestrian and vehicle traffic present.

Anyway, I guess word is spreading around town about these. I'm seeing more and more people using them. A few weeks ago, actually, I was driving down one of our busier streets (it was 3-4pm), and I noticed a guy (3 blocks away) on a recumbent bike with a SuperFlash on the back of his bike. It wasn't until I was 30-50 feet or so from him that I noticed he also had a cheapy 5mm LED blinker (and it was on) on his bike. :D

Word is CatEye is releasing/released the LD-1100 and that's slightly brighter than the LD-1000. I dunno... IMO, a bunch of 5mm LED's and a less than stellar blinking pattern won't make up for the attention-getting power of the SuperFlash.
 
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cave dave

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I have and like both lights. The LD-1000 is brighter off angle and how often is a car "directly" behind you. Most accidents are caused at intersections by cars in front or 90 angles. I also like that 2AA batteries have 3 times the capacity of 2AAA and yet cost the same. I'm thinking about using Enerloops in mine.
 

jch79

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cave dave said:
The LD-1000 is brighter off angle and how often is a car "directly" behind you. Most accidents are caused at intersections by cars in front or 90 angles.
Hey Dave,

Interesting point - you're right that the Super Flash suffers from angled (not straight-on) views. As for how often cars are directly behind you... I find that they are usually close enough to being directly behind me that the limitations of the light's optics don't hinder its usefulness and visibility. :shrug: But I agree that it can't match the TL-LD1000's side/angle visibility.

I totally agree that most bicycle accidents don't happen from being hit from behind. I've been commuting in downtown Chicago for three years now, and have been lucky enough to only have been clipped from the side by a taxi :mad:, run into a taxi :mad: that stopped short and suddenly, and run into a truck that did the same. No matter how safe or agressive you are, I think that in a place like this, you're going to have run-ins. 99% of the major ones can be avoided IMO... but there's always that one.

This is why I'm still searching for the ultimate front-light - an aluminum self-contained LED light with strobe function that's Made in USA. I've been using a CR2 Aleph A19 with a custom strobing Piglet board from Goldserve, mounted on a TwoFish Lockblock (thanks Migs!!!) which is great, but it still lacks side visibility - I cut the top off of a translucent water bottle cap and taped it to my light, to catch some light for side visibility, but it's still not ideal. Light & Motion makes the Vega (Made in California), however it has no side-visibility - but they've come the closest to what I'm looking for.

Anyways, thanks for the comments! If the TL-LD1000 was smaller, I'd probably use that. I prefer the smaller and lighter form factor of AAA batteries - considering the runtimes are still comparable, the advantage that AA's have is somewhat moot AFAIK. :shrug:

john
 

cave dave

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jch79 said:
...

Anyways, thanks for the comments! If the TL-LD1000 was smaller, I'd probably use that. I prefer the smaller and lighter form factor of AAA batteries - considering the runtimes are still comparable, the advantage that AA's have is somewhat moot AFAIK. :shrug:

john

I doubt the runtimes are comparable, that would defy the laws of physics. However it would meet all the laws of marketing! :lolsign:
 

jch79

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cave dave said:
I doubt the runtimes are comparable, that would defy the laws of physics. However it would meet all the laws of marketing! :lolsign:
:laughing: I meant to say that it they both have longer runtimes, so to me, I'd prefer to have the smaller and lighter AAA's, considering.

As for the runtimes... would 2xAA driving 10x5mm LED's be more efficient than 2xAAA driving 1x1/2 watt & 2x5mm LED's? I suppose it depends on howhard they're being driven? You got me - that whole electronics thing is something I've yet to come close to understanding!

And good call on the marketing. ;)

:) john
 

greenLED

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With these blinkers, it's not only the brightness that I look at but the flashing pattern. IMO, the flashing pattern of the SuperFlash is much better than the constant flashing (and even the "chase" mode) on the CatEye.

To give people an idea of the SuperFlash's flashing pattern, it reminds me of the newer LED bars that are on emergency vehicles.
 

cratz2

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Honestly, it seems that blinking rear bike lights last SO long on a set of 2xAA or 2xAAA cells, that it doesn't really matter which cells are used. I guess if you were the sort to ride 8 hours non-stop in the dark, it would start to be a player.

I probably have 8 different rear lights though they are all the cheapie sub $15 lights. I buy and sell bikes on the side and the ones that fit, I like to ride around for a couple weeks to get a true feel for them and I don't like to take the lights off of my dedicated bikes. Anyway, one of them has three rear-facing 5mm LEDs and one 3mm LED that looks to the left and to the right. It is pretty nice for the price and has decent side visibility.

I will be picking up one or two of the Super Flashes next time I order from Nashbar. Thanks guys for the fine review.
 

RipplesOfLife

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I just got two of these today.

The Planet Bike Super Flash that is.

I noticed one thing on steady mode. The .5 watt is actually pulsing and not on constantly. For those of you who have one, It's just like Fenix LOPSE on primary or dim mode.

I guess if it was truely constant, it would be (even) brighter.
 
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greenLED

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RipplesOfLife said:
IThe .5 watt is actually pulsing and not on constantly.
Really? That's cool to know; I guess I've never really used in constant more - I'll have to check it out.
 

Nubo

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Thanks for the review.

FYI, the LD-1000 does just fine with NiMH. I'm running AmondoTech's Titanium 2600's. I prefer to run my light with both sets of LEDs on constant-mode - max battery drain. I tested the runtime and at 10 hours it was just slightly dimmer. So, that's my rule-of-thumb recharge point, which leaves me plenty of margin.

I don't find the controls to be a bother unless you seek a new combination fequently. Since I almost always run the same way, it's second nature by now to hit the few quick clicks that get me on my way. To shut down, just hold down both buttons for about 2.5 seconds and everything shuts down.

I can't imagine the size and weight being drawbacks. Although it's the fashion these days for cyclists to insist that everything be weightless, in the real world a couple of ounces makes no difference unless you're going for the world record up the Alpe d'Huez. :green:

The output of the SuperFlash is impressive though!

I would be interested in comparison shots with both lights from a distance of, say, 50 or 100 yards. Straight-on and then maybe 20 degrees off-axis.
 

Zero_Enigma

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I own two Superflashes. I've found the hot spot works well in the day. I was out yesterday checking out how the light was in the day. It was bright and sunny and the Superflash under the seat pouch worked well. I can see the hot spot easy from a distance. It was bloodly hot and humid as well so I could not wear my reflecto jacket I normally wear (it does NOT breathe :mecry:) butI had a backpack on which make me more visable on the road. I find that during the day most of the time in my area cagers don't really see you well as it's bright and you're a small figure on the road which tends to blend into the enviroment unless you wear serious Fred reflecto then they'll see you better.

I use one of mine on flash while the other on steady mode. I find I get about (a guess as I ride 1-2hr/night) 6hrs on the steady mode with the bright hot spot before you notice a slight slow reduction in the intensity. The flash mode is very good for attention grabbing (and seems to be a magnet for prick drivers that make comments about it) but it's pulsating light is more that of a cops light (the unmarked cars rear window type) is what I've noticed in my area. I hail from Toronto tho I;m sure the cop lights are pretty much the same anywhere in US/Canada but could be in a different configuration that's all.

From a distance it looks like a cops light with one side burnt out till you get closer then you notice it's a bike. I find cagers tend to slow down a distance away not sure that you're a cop (which is a good thing as they';re slower and more aware of you there) but once they notice that you're not a cop and that it's a bike on the road then you either get some prick comments or they drive on by. I've yet to figure a way to front mount both units but it would be fun to try that out as if you turn both units on with say like a fraction of a second apart you get a nice dual flashing mode that any cager looking back would think you're a cop on a motor bike. Interesting to try sometime and note the results if I have the time.


Zero_Enigma
 

Zero_Enigma

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The output of the SuperFlash is impressive though!

I would be interested in comparison shots with both lights from a distance of, say, 50 or 100 yards. Straight-on and then maybe 20 degrees off-axis.

My backyard is about 9.5-10meters diagonal. I can contribute with a approx. 5 and 10 meter beam shot later on the weekend when the weather dries up.


Zero_Enigma
 

jch79

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Thanks for the great additions, Nubo & Zero-Enigma!

Very valuable input on both of your parts! :thumbsup:

john
 

cy

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WOW... I'm getting a superflash!

currently using a McGizmo modded red luxeon E1E mod running 1x R123. plenty bright on low beam, but really want a blinking red light to attract attention without being over bright.

high beam for red luxeon is too bright for most night riding.
 

jch79

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currently using a McGizmo modded red luxeon E1E mod running 1x R123. plenty bright on low beam, but really want a blinking red light to attract attention without being over bright.

Hey Cy,

How are you rear-mounting a 1x123 light?

I use an Aleph 19 for my front light, and have a custom Piglet board & Cree LE made by Goldserve, which I specified a 5Hz strobe - I'd go up to 10Hz if I could do it again... that might be a thought for your rear light, if you want something more robust?

The Super Flash is a great little light - you won't regret it, especially at the price. :)

john
 

greenLED

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J, IIRC, CY rides a recumbent and has that light mounted with a two-fish lockblock. Speaking of your A-10, for some time I thought of making a Flu-PIC sammie with a red Lux and putting it in a mini-minimag to use as rear light, but then I got the SuperFlash and found I didn't need to build a light from scratch.

CY, you won't regret it - the SuperFlash is a really nice "blinker".

Looking forward to those pics, Zero! :) I'm glad to hear you've had similar "daylight" experiences with your SuperFlash. I live in a "bike friendly" town, and now I'm noticing more and more people with them; they really make a difference compared to the regular blinkies, and I haven't had anybody comment about it.
 

cy

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just ordered the superflash for $19.95 at nashbar with free shipping until June 11th. no min order to get shipping.

thanks again for the headsup!!!!
 
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