The previous BlinkSteady review can be read here.
After one month of using it on the steady mode, I think it’s time to give the ol’ BlinkSteady a second look and follow up on the light. The BlinkSteady news feed also mentions that the final products are ready, and damn do they look good. Symmetrical, nice finish overall, very impressive stuff. Stealth black or industrial silver. I can’t tell which one I like more. But this review isn’t about what is to come - it is about what has been and what is available.
The usage over the last month has still been roughly the same; lots of commuting, lots of night time commuting, catching a bus or shuttle to work with the bike, riding in pouring rain, so on and so forth. Everything except for snow to be honest, but if I could have tried it in that, I would have. Now that we’ve established that, let the review begin…
Pretty damn good. On steady, it gets to the promised land of 80 hours in ~70F weather (battery performance will be compromised in the winter months, simply because it is colder). I average around 15-20 hours a week riding, a good portion of that falling in to twilight hours. The lights are still reasonably good, but noticeably dimmer. I think they could probably go another 10 hours before being too dim.
Fire and forgetfullness
This week I realized just how lazy/forgetful I am when it comes to electronics. Automatic sleep/off modes were invented for people like me. My phone uses a sleep mode and I’ve configured it for low power consumption. My laptop, the same. My work computer, again the same. My GPS uses auto off. My BlinkSteady light uses auto-off with intelligence. My GPS tracker doesn’t use auto off… but it is plugged in to an external battery pack and sends me text messages and emails reminding me to power it up when the charge gets low (and eventually when I get a dyno hub, it won’t even do that). As far as set it up once and never touch it again goes, the BlinkSteady light is right up there. I’m still very tempted to switch it to blink mode when I change the batteries though, just so I only have to replace the batteries on a once-every-few-months basis.
Yes, I really am that lazy.
It held up to Seattle’s most torrential downpour! Which is more like regular rain in the rest of the country. I did hit it with a direct blast from the hose once or twice to see whether that would penetrate, and it did not. Pressure washer, not so sure, but let’s just say that my bottom bracket got toasted but the BlinkSteady did not. So +1 point to BlinkSteady there. This is Seattle Approved®.
Random bus drivers complaining
Our drivers here must take lessons in how to bitch about everything, because they complain a lot about my bike and try to look for ways to get me to step off the bus. “The hook doesn’t fit over your 29’er tires.” “Oh, your frame bag will catch too much wind.” “Your frame bag is blocking the blinkers.” “Your friggin’ bright light is shining in my face, turn it off.”
The last one was quite amusing, because while I can do something about all the other things - let down the tires, remove the frame bag, so on and so forth, there’s nothing I can do about the BlinkSteady light. The biggest advantage of the BlinkSteady light actually ends up being its biggest disadvantage too. When on any form of non-biking transportation with your bike, the light will stay on. A side effect from this though is that the battery life drops even if your ride time is relatively short, so if you catch the BART for 2 hours a day, but only ride for 15 minutes, your lights are going to be on for 2h15m a day, not just the 15 minutes. For Seattle residents, most who have a bike firmly rusted to their bike rack since the last time it was used in 2004, they’ll have a perceived loss of battery life with the BlinkSteady. Of course, if you don’t do multi-modal transportation, this is not an issue.
Light doesn’t stay straight very well…
There is a little adjustment screw on the back of the mounting plate, which is easy to adjust using a 2mm Allen Key (or thereabouts). I initially mounted mine such that it had minimal pressure on the polymer stop. It moved around, so I increased the pressure to what I thought would be pretty much the maximum I was comfortable with. It held roughly steady until someone knocked it with their bike on the bike shuttle. I straightened it up, and in general it’s a non-issue until something pushes it sideways, but the little rubber stop doesn’t hold it in place with an iron grip that would make Soviet Russia proud. Ideally, this is what I would prefer, but the “only moves when someone pushes it” works pretty well. Maybe if I torque it down more…
A possible solution here is instead of having an external facing collar, make the light extend backwards slightly further and have an adjustable collar internal to the light (so that when you screw the mounting hardware to the rest of the light, no visible collar can be seen). I don’t know how the exact design would work here, but it would keep the clean look of the lights, while giving the iron grip.
One thing I was impressed with was that it didn’t scratch the seatpost at all. That’s rather nice, especially if you plan to use it on a Carbon Fiber seatpost.
When the battery levels start to get low, you can’t do that trick to shut it off
What trickery is this that I speak of? The BlinkSteady customer service guys gave me some useful information with testing the functionality of the light. The photo sensor of the light can be tricked in to thinking it’s too bright and turn the light off by holding your hand in front of the LED’s - the reflected light will be bright enough for the photo sensor to think it’s too bright outside, and turn the light off. A neat trick, but for the most part useless. Because the light sensor does work off a specified light sensitivity level however, this can be a way to tell you that the voltage levels in the batteries are too low, so maybe this isn’t so much of a negative as it is a positive. I did notice this kicked in much sooner than the light was less bright from general human perception.
Overall, what’s the verdict?
Still two thumbs up. A great little light that’s nicely packaged together. BlinkSteady still lists it as $95 MSRP, so I think that price is to stay. This has quickly become and remained one of my favorite items of “functional bling” on the bike, along with my GPS, and especially amongst the engineering types that I ride with they all give a nod to the simplistic, elegant yet highly functional design.
I probably won’t have much more to add on this review after this. The only thing remaining is how well the battery life holds up with NiMH rechargeable batteries in it. I may just update this review at that point of time.