Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lighting Nerd Chronicles: Riding Safe With The SafeRide

Realized much to my chagrin that I'm behind on my review of the Philips SafeRide, so here's an update for the lighting nerds.

I confess that I still haven't taken it out for an extended ride in pitch blackness. The weather just hasn't been conducive for "real" night riding, at least when you're a big wussbag like yours truly. However, it has served as my one and only light for urban commutes in the morning and evening, through all sorts of weather. As such, I feel at least mildly qualified to review it on that use case.

In my early impressions of the SafeRide, I focused a lot on the (perceived) construction quality of the light, and those initial impressions are still holding up after several months of actual use. While so many other bike lights feel like plastic toys, the SafeRide feels like a bike light for grownups. I've even dropped mine a couple times on concrete (in the interest of science... yeah, that's the ticket!) and it hasn't flinched. Even in the extreme-bordering-on-insane temperatures we've been "enjoying" this winter, the mounting bracket closes with the same confidence-inspiring "clack" every time -- no signs of brittleness or cracking.

Which is all well and good if you're packing for ultralight bike camping and want your light to double as a mallet for driving tent stakes -- but how does it work as a light? Pretty darn well, it turns out. I have no way of testing this scientifically, but my perception is that the number of cars pulling out in front of me or right-hooking me has gone down since I started using the SafeRide. I don't think it's the raw brightness of the light -- after all, there are plenty of lights out there that can beat it on pure, retina-searing power. I really think it's the size and shape of the reflector. From a distance, it has a presence in the lane that so many of today's laser-pointer bike lights lack. It doesn't look like a car headlight thanks to the weird rectangular shape, but it looks like something big and worthy of note.

Downsides? Well, if your commute is longer and/or darker than mine, I imagine charging could get tiresome. I run my light on the low setting (high just seems to be overkill on a route with a lot of ambient light) for about 20 minutes a day, and find myself topping off the charge once every two weeks. For reference, I'm still running the stock batteries that came with the light, and charging them via the stock charger. Time will tell how many cycles they have in them. It would also be nice if spare handlebar brackets were easier to come by -- I'd like to move this thing around the fleet, but it looks like I'll have to place an order across an ocean to make that happen (no big whoop, as it is a small world, after all).

There's also that size/weight ("chunky and massive") thing I mentioned in my early review linked above, but I see that as the flip side of the "able to drive tent stakes" durability and the large reflector size. You just can't get those features into a featherweight penlight. Considering the number of cheap (and not-so-cheap) plastic lights I've destroyed and patched up with duct tape over the years, it's a compromise I'm happy to make.

Okay, so all I owe you now is an extended night ride test. If you can send some warm weather to Iowa, I'll get right on that. 

As usual, the disclaimer: No bribes of product, money, coffee, or pizza changed hands as compensation for this review. However, if my purple prose has inspired you to buy a SafeRide of your own and you do so via the fancy Amazon link below, I'll get a tiny kickback from Amazon. Hooray for internet commerce!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This has definitely not been a winter suitable for evaluating bike gear! On the plus side, I've put a lot of miles on my cross country skis, and many hours on my little Princeton Tec Eos head-mounted light.

Thanks for the update on the Philips light. Good to know that it is serving you well and making you happy. Of course, you know what this means... yes, Philips is ceasing production. At least that's the word on CandlePowerForums. If you want to buy an extra mount, you might want to do it soon.

Steve in snowy Peoria