Friday, October 18, 2013

Lighting Nerd Chronicles: A SafeRide In The Hand

Okay, so some nitty and/or gritty. Still no real-world riding review (haven't been out in the dark all that much), but some actual hands-on stuff.

My first impression of the Philips SafeRide as I opened the box was, "Gosh, that is a BIG light! And kinda heavy!" Imagine my surprise when I realized the (provided, rechargeable) batteries weren't even installed yet -- I was holding an almost empty shell.

But what a shell it is! All brushed aluminum (though also available in black), and seemingly tough enough to drive nails. The two halves are held together by a 3mm Allen-headed screw, and the manufacturer was even kind enough to provide the appropriate wrench for it in the package. Needing a tool to swap batteries could be a nuisance if you're going to run it all night and require a battery swap mid-ride, but for my normal commuting use (where I'll have time overnight to charge it up via the mini-USB port on the back), I don't mind. I've read reports from other users that it's no big whoop to replace that screw with a thumbscrew for tool-free access to the innards.

Up top, there's a blue charge status light that gradually gets smaller until you're out of juice (and pulses like a tiny Cylon during charging) and a rubberized on/off switch that's easy to operate while gloved. You can also see the illuminated edge of the lens at the top of the photo above, which provides some side lighting.

The bracket is equally beefy. If you've seen the old Planet Bike bracket (before they went to a ratcheting hose-clamp to accommodate 31.8mm bars), imagine that clamp on steroids:

The thumbscrew bolt and slotted clamp make it easy to move the bracket from bike to bike. I'm also a fan of the shim system -- the bare clamp is big enough for 31.8mm bars, then a couple sets of interlocking rubber shims bring it down to what I consider "normal" bar size. The "interlocking" part is what I like -- no losing a stack of loose rubber strips when you remove the clamp. The bracket also pivots left or right with an audible "click" (and more than a little force), so there's very little chance it could point off in the wrong direction of its own accord.

So I mentioned that this was a big, honkin' light, right? In fact, when I put it on my bars the first time, I thought, "Dang, that looks pretty clunky and massive." However, I'm giving it a pass, for four reasons:
  1. I'm pretty clunky and massive.
  2. Part of the size comes from the fact that it runs on four AA batteries, which passes my "even number of commonly available batteries" test for easy charging (assuming I ever run it on batteries that charge outside the light).
  3. The other part of the size comes from a really big lens, which passes my "doesn't look like a laser pointer to other vehicles" test.
  4. Pal Steve K. the Professional Electron Wrangler (who's so bad-arse, he makes his OWN lights) has hypothesized that all that aluminum functions as a heat sink to protect the LEDs.
However, being way too obsessive about such things, I did put my brain to work on alternate mounting solutions to get this thing a) centered, and b) a little lower on the bars. Take the clamps from an old set of Cinelli Spinaci aerobars (how did THOSE get in my parts box?) and a chunk of old handlebar, and voila! Homemade accessory bar!

I like this solution, but I think there could be an even more elegant one. See, it looks like the part of the clamp that actually attaches to the underside of the light is held on by two bolts:

My thinking is, an old front reflector bracket (the beefy steel kind) could be installed on the fork crown and bent so that the mounting holes are quasi-perpendicular to the ground. Then, remove the mounting bracket piece and use the bolts to mount to that bracket instead. Of course, it would require a really strong bracket so as not to fatigue, fail, and fall off; it would defeat the "easy to move among bikes" feature (flip side: also defeats the "easy to steal" bug); and I'd have to park the whole bike close enough to an outlet to charge the light with the included cord.

So, on perceived initial quality and meeting my arbitrary list of bike light features, we have a winner. Next up, I'll go play in the dark (which is getting easier and easier as the days get shorter) and report on what really matters: Does the darn thing work? 

Disclaimer again: The Cycle paid for this light like any other schlub off the street, and was not compensated in any way for this review, other than the pleasure I get from hearing myself babble on the Internet. And, as usual, if you follow that Amazon link in paragraph two and buy stuff, I get a tiny kickback.


Anonymous said...

A question about the heatsink qualities.. how hot does the little beastie get if you just turn it on and set it on the table for 20 minutes? If it gets distinctly warm, that's fine. If it gets too hot to just hold in your hands for an extended length of time... well, it'll probably be fine as long as the bike is moving.

Regarding the idea of mounting it on a bracket... I'd recommend testing the bracket with an object that weighs the same as the light, but is much less valuable. Also, it should be something that won't cause trouble if it goes into your spokes. Better to find out that the bracket isn't strong and durable enough without busting the shiny new light.

Steve in Peoria,
taking a break from herding electrons

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Ah, science!

I turned it on full power and let it sit still in the house (so, room temperature) for 30 minutes (because if 20 is good, 30 must be better, right?) After that time, it was warm to the touch but certainly not hot.

Regarding the bracket, that may just be a pipe dream for exactly the reasons you mention: fear of a lost light and fear of a light in the spokes. Besides, who else can say they have a Cinelli accessory bar? :-)