Not so RadBot 1000 Review…

16 09 2010

RadBot and Superflash...

I had read several good reviews online about the Portland Design Works Radbot 1000most notably on Kent Petersen’s blog.  So when I needed some new lights and I saw the RadBot 1000 for sale at MEC for the same $17.50 as my usual goto lights [Planet Bike Superflash] I got two of them thinking I would be stoked by them.  A month later I am here to report that the RadBot isn’t as Rad as I had hoped…=-(

Before I get into its lack of Rad-ness I should say that:

  • it’s not actually a bad taillight
  • it works
  • it’s bright

Side view...

If you gave me a free case of them I’d use them – something I wouldn’t do if they were junk.  If the Planet Bike Superflash didn’t exist I’d probably be using RadBots and be happy about it.

Would I do this with RadBots?...no!

However, you can tell I didn’t love them because:

  • I put them on bikes I ride at night the least
  • I won’t buy more
  • I didn’t recommend them to a friend when she was buying lights at MEC recently…I helped her buy some Superflashes.

What didn’t I like?  Well compared to my PB Superflashes:

  • the RB is huge
  • it’s damn ugly
  • the mounting clip flexes more and seems flimsier
  • I don’t like the two blinky options it has
  • I don’t think brighter is better [at some point] when it comes to bike lights
  • I can’t operate the function button while riding the bike and get reliable results like I can the Superflash’s much simpler switch [yes I do vary how my lights are working on the fly!]
  • I do think more lights are better and I tend to run 2+ lights aimed at different spots down the road so all of these issues are exacerbated for me
  • I wear reflective material on me and don’t want to have big ugly reflectors on my bikes
  • requires tools to open and swap batteries

Top view...

I should also point out that I’ve never had my Superflashes turn off nor have I had them malfunction due to getting wet. They have never jumped ship on me. The Superflash is so bright and the flashing mode is so similar to police and emergency vehicle strobes that I have had cars slow and stop on more than one occasion when I was pulled over to the side of the road fixing something.  If I mis-aim my Superflashes it’s easy to blind drivers and other cyclists.  Do I need a light that is twice as bright?  Not really.

You may then ask if I don’t need brighter lights why do I use two Superflashes on many of my bikes? :

  • LEDs shoot light out down a narrow cone so they are at peak brightness only from a small angle which makes have two different aiming points [typically I use a near and far setting] valuable.
  • having two lights means one can stop working/fall off/run out of power or I can lend one to someone I’m riding with and still have some lighting back there.
  • sometimes I’m in the mood for a taillight freak show and 3 lights pulsing away is more freaky than 1 or 2!

Just to reiterate although I prefer the Planet Bike Superflash the RadBot 1000 is not a fail…It’s just not as good as I had hoped. I own two and will continue to use them [until I manage to give them away to needy friends!!] so I may change my mind…if so I will report back.

Some RadBot tidbits:

  • RadBot 1000′s will clip to your bike using the Planet Bike Superflash mounting bracket if that matters to you.
  • There is a fender mounted version of the RadBot.
  • the RadBot comes with a mounting bracket that will fit European [ie. Tubus] racks.

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13 responses

16 09 2010
Michael Watkins

The one clear case why I like the PDW R1000 over the PB Superflash is when riding during the daytime. I always switch it on when it is gloomy or wet, something which granted almost never happens here in Vancouver. In the daytime regardless of the weather it is sufficiently bright enough, and perhaps the throbbing-blinky pattern helps too, to actually improve visibility and from much farther away than the Superflash.

Some have said the angle of visibility of the Radbot 1000 is wider but I’ve not checked this thoroughly. It seems at least as good as the Superflash in this regard.

Of course with higher output you will run through AAA cells more quickly than with the PB Superflash. This might be the deciding factor for some, but not for this battery geek. I run a veritable fleet of high quality Sanyo Eneloop rechargables (and Duracell labelled Sanyos) in all our lights and swap them out regularly and this leads me to the one criticism you’ve offered that I fully agree with – I dislike having to break out a screw driver to swap cells.

The Radbot 1000 has a permanent place on the two bikes that get ridden the most in the dark (and daytime) around here, and the platoon of Superflashes go on other bikes and occasionally on helmets.

16 09 2010
thelazyrando

@MIke – I use my Superflashes on gloomy days as well and they easily visible if it’s overcast.

16 09 2010
Val Garou

I run the superflash, too, but one thing the Radbot might have over it is the reflector.

I lived in Tucson, AZ for 8 years, and while it’s the best city for cycling I’ve ever lived in, I have known the cops there to actually enforce the state law that requires a rear-facing red reflector. In Arizona at least (and I assume some other places, too) a light is not considered a substitute for the reflector—only an addition.

I hear what you’re saying about preferring the reflectors to be on your body, but in Arizona that can actually net you a ticket.

16 09 2010
Michael Watkins

I like the rear reflector myself – where the light is mounted on my bike it looks almost like it was built into the rear fender as it reaches down to touch. Both black, I find the look not ugly at all.

On visibility during the day, I have looked into this some. My wife rides one of my sons to school on her way to work in Richmond over the nasty Knight Street bridge. She has a Radbot 1000 on the seat post and two panniers; at 5′ 2″ you can imagine the seat post on her fairly new Trek 520 isn’t all that extended and thus the light is not ideally placed. Side view is obscured. Yes, I need to do something about it.

Perhaps before and after I fix the mounting locations on their bikes it I’ll take some snap shots at 1 block, 2, 5 and 10 and see if there’s anything to be learned other than tiny red dots at a distance are tiny red dots at a distance.

(a tangent here: why in the world do so many rear rack makers fail to locate mounting holes, bracket, or optional hardware to make rear-of-rack mounting of lights easier? I’ve got a 26 year old shiny but not quite mint one owner (me) Miyata 1000 with a 26 year old original rack on the back and surprise, it has proper mounting tab at the back of the rack for lights. Time to install a PB rear rack mounting kit (couple bucks at MEC)? 20 seconds or less! )

My youngest has a Superflash mounted seatpost style too. Not ideally placed but certainly better than on my wife’s bike. Sigh. I foresee some metalworking in my immediate future to get both there lights mounted at the rear of their racks.

We live on top of one of the highest spots in Vancouver and I can watch them cross a major street and continue along our street for a great many blocks. The Radbot 1000 is clearly visible for much longer than the Superflash, despite being partially obscured by panniers, and even at closer distances the R1000 is to my eyes substantially more visible.

Anyway… yes the R1000 is brighter but the Superflash is also plenty bright, provided that it gets new cells once in a while which is something I believe many cyclists forget to deal with. Maybe such lights should have a high pitched squeal issue forth when the cells should be replaced!

The good news is that you can have either light depending on which poison suits you. MEC sells both for $17.50, which seems to be something of a bargain for the R1000 if I remember correctly – when I first looked into buying one U.S. retailers seemed to be selling it for a premium over the SF’s.

17 09 2010
Joe

What are the thoughts on the clear lens facing rearward? I’d like to try it, maybe in tandem with my red superflash, as long as I know it’s an acceptable practice.

I would think it might confuse some drivers if it was dark enough. Make them unsure whether the cyclist was coming or going.

17 09 2010
thelazyrando

@Joe – the Stealth version of the Superflash…the one with the clear lens shown in my photos lights up with the same red light as the standard Superflash. So a driver will either see nothing when it’s turned off [too small to notice on a bike when unpowered] or he/she will see the same bright red light as a standard Superflash.

Similarly the only part of the RadBot 1000 that lights up is the clear portion around the big LED at the top….so that LED is also red.

17 09 2010
Joe

Ah, now the names makes more sense. Thanks.

28 09 2010
Dan

Well…if you really don’t like the lights well enough to use yourself and you’re willing to give away a Radbot 1000 to needy friends…can I be your friend? Please? I know it may not seem like an expensive light to a lot of people, but it is beyond my means at the moment, and all I have to use is a 20 year-old VistaLite that is pretty much invisible after so many years’ use. That’s all I have on my rear rack for commuting at night, so if you’re feeling charitable, I could surely give it a good home and be much safer in the bargain. Either way, I surely thank you for considering the possibility.

28 09 2010
thelazyrando

@Dan – if you are local and swing by to get it…I’m sure I can scrounge up a light for you. If you live somewhere else it would cost as much as the light is worth to mail it which doesn’t make much sense.

28 09 2010
Dan

I understand, and thank you kindly for your gracious offer. You’re absolutely right about the price; international shipping is just too high to be reasonable for me down here in Eugene, OR. By the way, the same light seems to be selling for $10 more here at local bike shops, with some going as high as $32. Excellent review with a nice, reasoned perspective for why the light isn’t your ideal first choice. Cheers and best regards; thanks once again, Dan.

28 09 2010
thelazyrando

@Dan – I may be down in Eugene this fall/winter. If so I’ll drop you a line and we’ll meet up. I’ll bring a light with me.

16 10 2010
CETMA Light Upgrade « The Lazy Randonneur

[...] part, all weather day/night machines.  Mounting a taillight to my CETMA cargo bike was no problem. I used one of the Radbot lights I reviewed a few weeks ago.  a front light was a bit more hassle.  Putting a light on the bar didn’t work very well as [...]

5 12 2010
I’m warming up to the Radbot… « The Lazy Randonneur

[...] Since my initial review of the Radbot 1000 I’ve used the two units I have a bunch and I have to say I like them more than I did at first.  My criticisms remain, but the sheer power of the LED and the various intermittent blink modes has impressed me more than it did when I wrote that review.  I’ll be keen to see what Portland Design Works comes up with next product cycle. LHT got Bot! [...]

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