Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Planet Bike SuperFlash: Who Put That Mark On My Bench?

Yes, I've talked about the SuperFlash before, so I'll try not to tread that ground again. But that initial review was ancient history in Internets time, which -- I think -- says something new and important about the PBSF.

I'm gonna throw down and say that the SuperFlash is a benchmark product. There are brighter lights, cheaper lights, lights that have fancier strobe patterns, lights with better side visibility, more waterproof lights, more durable lights, lights that burn longer on a set of batteries, and lights that are less filling while still tasting great. But here we are, almost three years after my last review (and almost seven years after the PBSF was introduced), with LED technology chugging ahead, and yet when I look at another tail light, my measuring stick is still the ubiquitous SuperFlash. When I see a $50 light, my first thought is, "Well, it had better be twice as bright or twice as tough or burn twice as long than a $25 SuperFlash, or why bother?"

Of course, this "measuring stick" phenomenon hurts Planet Bike as much as it helps them. After all, they've since put out the "Turbo" version of the SuperFlash for about ten bucks more... but when I look at it in the store, I think, "It's not THAT much brighter than what I already have." So, despite the fact that my fleet of Flashes looks like hell (one's even had parts of its case superglued back on), I tend to leave well enough alone -- which is saying something for this perpetual upgrader.

The funny thing is, when I think about other benchmark bike products, the first thing that pops into my head (probably because I'm both old and in a tail light state of mind) is the venerable Vistalite VL300, lighting legend of the 90s, and the light that introduced cycling to those three little letters, LED:

About the size of a deck of cards, ran for what seemed like eternity (compared to the other non-LED lights available at the time) on two AA batteries, and -- if memory serves -- the case doubled as a reflector. Of course, those five teeny LEDs were absolutely anemic compared to just about anything available today, but at the time, the Vista was IT.

Okay, dear reader(s)... I'll throw this one to you. What's your benchmark bike product? Maybe not the greatest in its category, but the one you use to measure all others. Since I went with the Vista as my second example (as a benchmark of its era), I'll accept any historical period. Heck, if I get a particularly good/eloquent suggestion, maybe I'll reward the contributor with some useless piece of schwag from my junk pile (though before you get too excited, talk to Scott L about the quality of my schwag).


Jeremy said...

SRAM chains. Specifically the 8spd ones. Always less than $20, last a long time, powerlink is super easy to use, never seen one broken.

Anonymous said...

dang.. there's so many great parts to consider! Brooks Pro saddle, Schmidt hub dynamo, UN-72 bb's, and Shimano single pivot sidepull brakes from the early 90's...
..but, I have to go with the silk sew-up tires that came on a used Sekine bike I bought in 1976! Granted, my previous bike had 70psi gumwalls, but those silks were sooo light and supple! There's never been a clincher to compare, and even modern tubulars (that I can afford) pale in comparison. To paraphrase Ferris B., if you have the means, I highly recommend them!

Steve in Peoria

Iowagriz said...

I still run my Vistalite 300 as a back-up light. It is also my bench mark of taillights.

As for regular products, I'll go the clothing route and saw an old Pearl Izumi vest that I still run. Solid on the front, full mesh on the back. Perfect combination of wind protection and venting on spring and fall days. I can't find a replacement for it, since new vest all have a full back with a vent on the shoulders (which look too hot).